Don’t horse around when it comes to staff training!

No doubt many of you reading this will be aware of the food scandal that’s currently going on within our supermarkets, rocking a nation of meat-lovers. Revelations that many supposed ‘beef’ products on sale on our shelves contain a percentage of horse meat have shocked and caused outrage amongst consumers.

Personally, I have to admit that as long as there’s no health hazard posed, I’m not overly worried if I’m eating a horseburger; in fact there’s even a sense of personal gain as I’ve most likely expanded my gastronomic horizons, albeit unknowingly.

But how was the ‘horsegate’ scandal allowed to happen in the first place? Is it that the correct procedures aren’t in place amongst supermarkets and food producers, or that perhaps in some cases they simply weren’t followed? Or could it be that, perhaps, workers in the supply chain lacked adequate training to be able to follow them effectively in the first place? I don’t profess to know the answer, but I’m quite certain of one thing: UK supermarkets and food suppliers will surely be stepping up their staff training to ensure that this doesn’t happen again!

For any business that has procedures and processes in place, it’s essential that training needs are realised and effective programmes are put in place to ensure that these are followed.

Let’s take the example of a current project that we’re working on here at Saffron. We’ve just embarked on an exciting new project to develop a suite of engaging e-learning courses for an organisation to support a key stage in the process of awarding research funding to academic institutions. It involves a great deal of consideration and evaluation amongst what are known as ‘peer reviewers’ in order to decide which institutions should be awarded funding based on the individual merit of their proposal.

I’m not saying for one minute that there is any link between ‘horsegate’ and peer reviews; but what’s key to take away here is the necessity for such training to ensure that important processes are reinforced.

This particular organisation approached us because they successfully identified a key training need to support such an important part of their work, and decided to deliver this through e-learning. Perhaps food producers and retailers alike will also soon begin to identify new training needs – most likely they already have. But how is this done effectively? How do organisations ensure that they are truly addressing the key training requirements? By carrying out an effective Training Needs Analysis (TNA) – that’s how!

A successful TNA allows an organisation to review the learning and development needs amongst its staff. In most cases, it requires a great degree of research and a number of methods are normally employed to ensure that the process is effective.

To finish off this blog, I’ve put together three key tips that will be sure to help you in your TNA activities:

1. Ask probing questions

Find out what different teams need by asking insightful questions. Don’t necessarily ask managers and employees what training they think they need, but ask them what they feel they will need to achieve their targets or deliverables. What’s been most challenging for them in the last few months? Aim to get specific examples, not just vague generalisations.

2. Review search terms on your Learning Management System (LMS) or intranet

Reviewing the key search terms within your LMS gets to the heart of what your staff are concerned about and the training that they need. When the Head of Google Learning Labs did this recently and evaluated the top terms in their learning portal and compared this with the other information they gained from their TNA activities, they found that they ‘correlated exactly’. Take a look yourself here (at around 15 minutes in).

3. Review key business metrics and trends

Key signs within your organisation can come from your business metrics and trends. Investigate these: Are sales lower because staff feel they lack the necessary skills to carry out their job effectively? And are people leaving because the training is not adequate in their role? Delve deeper and identify if there is a training need that needs to be addressed. Issues such as these can indicate that there may be more serious training issues bubbling under the surface.

About the author

Luke Helgesen - Instructional designer