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How can I ensure my staff get the most out of training?

Have a plan in place to ensure the benefits of training are long-lasting.

Deidre Elphick-Moore

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My employees come back from training energised but I usually don’t see a sustained improvement in their behaviour or performance. How do I change that?

It has been my experience that there are a number of very important factors missing in skills development frameworks and that, without these, your experience is the rule and not the exception. This is evidenced by a well-documented statistic that only about 15% of classroom-based learning translates into improved workplace performance.

Here are some ways that you can improve this statistic in your workplace:

  • Start with employee accountability: there is much focus in our country on education and employment as things we are entitled to. However, I challenge you to shift this way of thinking, to foster an environment where your staff want to learn and where they take responsibility for their improved performance following training.

Before any of your staff members attends a skills development programme, ask them to document why they want to attend, what they hope to be able to do as a result of attending.

Once they have been on training, have them document the key lessons learnt and how they plan to apply these in the workplace.

Here comes the tough part: agree a course of action that will hold the employee accountable to improved performance. All of this can be captured in a “delegate charter”.

  • Encourage employees to entrench the lessons learnt: they can do this by practicing new skills immediately e.g. following time-management training, an employee can:
  1. Document how he spends his time
  2. Delegate appropriate tasks to colleagues
  3. Discuss prioritising techniques with his manager.

He can also entrench learning by teaching others what he has learnt. Encourage your staff to debrief afterwards and to share key learning points with colleagues e.g. as an agenda item during your regular, team meetings. The more they do this, the more entrenched the lessons will become.

  • Provide workplace coaching and mentoring: coaching allows employees to get guidance from more experienced colleagues regarding how to apply classroom lessons to the workplace. The delegate charter” mentioned above is key if workplace coaching is to be successful; employees need to know what lessons they want to entrench and how to go about this.

If they know what questions to ask of workplace coaches, they will lead these discussions and they should be more receptive to what their coaches say.

Mentoring can be defined as “off-line help by one person to another in making significant transitions in knowledge, work or thinking” (Megginson and Clutterbuck, 1995).

This is more strategic and high-level guidance than coaching, which relates to specific skills that need to be developed.

Mentoring provides a “30 000 feet view”; guiding principles that influence paradigm shifts through thinking and therefore behaviours.

It is important that all involved parties have received guidance on the processes and principles of coaching and mentoring.

These are skills that not everyone has but that can certainly be developed. Formal training courses can be invaluable here.

  • Evaluate employee performance at regular intervals: e.g. every three months following training. As part of the delegate charter, key performance indicators should be identified and improvement across these should be charted over time.

It may be most effective for employees to evaluate their own performance and to discuss these views with their managers.

Regular introspection and self-analysis brings awareness to what we do every day; we are conscious about what we do and how well we do it.

This continued focus on personal performance is, I believe the key to sustained improvement and energy.

Deirdre Elphick-Moore, has an Honours Degree in Psychology and over ten years of international experience in human capital management at Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. Co-founding The Office Coach in 2009, she now focuses on personal and workplace effectiveness training and development. Her relaxed, engaging style encourages people to learn more, remember more and apply more in their workplaces, as well as inspiring to consistently better themselves in the work place.

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Hiring & Managing Staff

How do I best present an offer of employment?

You need to consider these aspects before offering a job position to future employees.

Juliette Attwell

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Many business owners think that presenting an offer of employment is quite a simple, cut and dried task. You present the offer and the candidate can “take it or leave it!”. Until you actually really want that exceptional talent in your business and they’ve declined your offer for something as simple as; not enough leave days or a proposed start date that they may not be able to adhere to.

Related: Can staff training increase my turnover?

These are all minor problems that if given the opportunity to be voiced could be ironed out quite easily without either party feeling like they’ve sold their soul. Unfortunately however in many instances this opportunity is not given and businesses end up losing talent to their competitors. So how do you best present a letter of offer?

1. Know the persons expectations before presenting

It cannot be stressed enough how important it is that both parties know expectations and priorities.

  • What is more attractive to the candidate?
  • Is it a higher salary or more days leave?
  • Is it a company car or rather flexible working hours?

In an interview situation a candidate may not be too forthcoming with information on what salary they are looking for as they may feel intimidated or embarrassed.

In this case it’s a good idea to find out this information from their recruitment agent or ask them to email you after the interview with a range of salaries they would be happy to move for. You can then assess how this would fit into your budget.

2. Present the offer letter in person

Says Lisa Knowles; Head of Global Recruitment at Recruitgroup: “If you are using the services of a recruitment agent they will do this for you, they have built that relationship and trust with the candidate and will be able to offer an objective opinion. If not however it is best to meet in person and iron out any questions they or you may have.”

3. Implement an expiry date

A deadline of about 24 hours to a maximum of 2 days should be in writing on the letter of offer.

If the person is serious about the role they will not need more than this to think about and discuss their decision with their significant other.

Of course this is within reason and if longer is needed with justifiable cause then this can be negotiated.

Related: What personality traits and qualifications do head hunters look for?

4. Be flexible

Before presenting a letter of offer decide on how much room you have to manoeuvre. Presenting an offer is much like doing a dance, in the beginning you’re not quite sure of your partner’s style, you try to work together moving a few steps forward and a few steps backwards and standing on toes every now and then.

Eventually though you find out what works for both of you and you fall into step. If you need to change certain points of the offer then do so if you feel the candidate is worth it.

Communication and flexibility are key. Your business needs to move forward with top talent that are engaged, focused and happy. This can only be achieved they feel valued and satisfied right from the start. An offer letter is by no means purely about salary.

There are so many other factors that come into consideration when candidates choose to accept or decline an offer. It’s whether you’re willing to find out and listen to these that will help you either snap up or lose top talent.

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Hiring & Managing Staff

Can staff training increase my turnover?

Can I afford to train my staff and maintain a profitable business?

Kirsty Chadwick

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Staff-training

At last year’s Consumer Goods Council, Small Business Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu stated, “Almost 80% of SMMEs fail in the first year and only 50% of those last more than five business years”. It is hard enough keeping your business on track, and having to train staff can be costly.

Related: (Infographic) Outsourced vs Online Training: What Actually Works?

With legislation now in place that makes this training obligatory, the pressure is immense.

How can I comply with the Employment Equity Act to train my staff?

The Employment Equity Act requires business owners to conduct staff training in the fields of HIV/AIDS, sexual harassment and cultural sensitivity. If these requirements are not met, an inspector from the Department of Labour may issue a fine of R500 000. These inspections can happen unannounced at any time.

How can one balance complying with this Act with the extra expenditure on staff training?

E-learning materials are customisable and can be edited for a targeted demographic of learners. Information can be adjusted if it changes, which in turn cuts costs of having to purchase new textbooks or print materials.

Using video, animation, text and audio inputs, many industries have discovered the value of making training interactive.

Video
For employees with low literacy capabilities, compiling video material allows for a dramatic reduction in reading for learners.

Animation
Animation can be used to demonstrate complex problems and solutions. Able to provide lessons in its social context, it assists learners to retain large quantities of information.

Virtual Classrooms
A virtual classroom allows online interaction between students, teachers and peers. The major benefit of using this method is that it eliminates the need to travel to lessons.

Instructional Design
If your training needs are specific to your business, a customised e-learning solution can be designed and developed from start to finish to best suit your needs.

Related: Maximum Growth Through Top Teams

Blended Learning
Not everyone has adapted to using technology. Some learners still need human interaction to grasp a topic. If this is the case taking the route of blended learning, which combines digital with face-to-face, would be most appropriate.

Adaptability
There is e-learning material currently available on HIV/AIDS, sexual harassment and cultural sensitivity. The beauty of e-learning material is its adaptability to meet the needs of your workforce.

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Hiring & Managing Staff

What personality traits and qualifications do head hunters look for?

The age cut-off depends on the skills set the executive has to offer.

Auguste Coetzer

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What personality traits and qualifications do head hunters look for when trying to fill a top executive position for a firm?

First and most important is displaying that you are able to walk in a fellow executives ‘moccasins’ (empathy not sympathy). Long-winded executives that cannot make a point will never make it to the ‘real’ top. Communication skills, whether verbal or written, are critical.

Integrity and honesty are well received. Even well seasoned executives sometimes cannot answer this question “what is the biggest mistake you have made in your life and how did you rectify it?” Executives must also be aware of their development areas.

Related: How important is internal communication in my business?

When it comes to qualifications, it very much depends on the industry. It is highly unlikely that the group CEO of a mining house would not hold a relevant mining degree from a reputable university coupled with an MBA. On a lighter note I cannot imagine the CEO of a well known wine, beer and spirits company not having a keen interest in wine tasting and not knowing the difference between a good or mediocre wine.

A solid basic university degree or a good B Tech degree from a technikon is only an entry point not a guarantee to success, similarly a prestigious MBA might raise your profile, but at the end of the day if it cannot be applied optimally in the work place then that prestigious qualification is only good on paper.

Work history and a proven track record are very important when considering candidates. Good executives are not ‘job hoppers’. Executives that have steadily climbed the ladder with the same employer is a positive. To change jobs just for better remuneration is a no go. Hard core competencies are non-negotiable.

It is not the number of years that is important, but the knowledge you have gained during those years you worked and what change or turnaround record you have to offer to a prospective employer. One can have ten years experience, but in fact only have one year repetitive experience.

Officially age should not matter, but it would very much depend on the retirement age policy of the organisation at the older age spectrum. The pendulum is returning to where companies would consider a 55 year old for executive level employment.

At the younger end of the scale it would depend on the position requirements. The determining factors being qualifications, competencies and most importantly emotional intelligence.

Related: Do I need to invest heavily in expensive technology in order to let my staff work flexible hours?

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