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The Influence of Technology 
on Training and Development for your Company 

This is the first of a series of articles on how technology has influenced training and how businesses may take full advantage of what's available.  First a quick overview:  the main purpose of Training and Development is to anticipate change and to respond proactively it.  Changes include a wide variety of occurrences:

  • The changes in the organization due to mergers, acquisitions, growth and downsizing;

  • The changes or advances in technology requiring new skill-sets; 

  • New competitive pressures requiring more efficiency;

  • New rules or regulations that change how the organization runs and/or ones that change the makeup of the workforce; 

  • Making sure that the new employees or employees moving to new jobs have the basic knowledge and skills to accomplish the job, even if there's been no change.

A Learning Organization is an organization that has the capacity to adapt and change with a changing environment.  This means that as the employees need to accomplish new tasks, they receive the needed training for the new tasks and the development needed to  prepare for the future.  Most successful businesses are learning organizations.

Business Training is the learning activities designed to provide employees with the skills and knowledge they need to accomplish the tasks for their present jobs. 
 a) Training can be formal, classroom type training or web-enabled training with set agendas and assignments with various methods of assessment.  
 b) Or the training may be informal, on-the-job-training.  The informal training is harder to manage, but it constitutes the majority of all business training.

Business Development is the training designed for future needs of the business and the employee.  This includes cross-training is where employees are trained in the skills and knowledge to do another job. Cross-trained employees may be effective quickly in the case of a change. This is a key part of a plan to keeping an organization flexible.  This is also important for employees who work on a team to accomplish a certain task, and then become part of a different team to do another.

Analyzing present training efforts:  Before you can assess the success of the training, you must have determined the objectives and the goals of the training.  What is the desirable outcome of training & development?  You need to systematically examine the present jobs and the skills and knowledge necessary to accomplish the tasks associated with those jobs. 

There will be organization-wide goals and specific objectives for each job-specific training program.  Examine the present methods of training from the new employee orientation to high-level skill and/or management courses.  Who is doing the training?  How are the courses taught?  How much training do new recruits need to accomplish their entry-level jobs, past the standard orientation?  Could you be making better use of technology and resources, etc.?  After employees have been through a training program of some kind, how do you know whether they've learned anything?  You need a system to assess or test the effectiveness of the training - a way to measure if the training is working for the organization.

There are two ways to assess training: 
1) After a training session or program, examine if there is an improvement on the job performance.  Is there a higher production rate, more sales, fewer sexual harassment problems, or other specific and measurable goals? 
2) For content learning, there could be some kind of test to pass.  With an assessment or grade received for the content, you can be assured that the employee didn't just "sit" through a session without any retention.

Designing a training program:  Depending upon your situation, you may need to bring in an outside group to help figure out how much training can be put online, how much should be outsourced and how much needs to be kept in-house.  There is no one correct answer for how to structure a program.  Even after you have crafted the best possible program for your company, you will need to keep working on it.  The laws keep changing; your company will change; technology will be upgraded; and more. (HIPAA is a good example of a law that has affected every company that has to deal with medical records.)  After people go through a series of courses, they'll be ready for another higher-level round.  Training is a never-ending process in a good company.

Orientation:  Redesigning the training received during orientation may be the most significant section of your training program.  Various studies on this topic conclude that an amazing 83% of people surveyed believed that formal orientation programs motivate & increase retention of personnel.  Because of the complex legal environment these days, you will want to be sure that new employees know the rules: the informal corporate structure rules, and the very formal legalities that apply to your business.  This is also the best time to "sell" the company again to the new employees.  Make sure they know the history, the story, or whatever else makes the company stand out.  A greater investment in employee orientation programs will significantly reduce your employee turnover rate.  It is very expensive to keep hiring new employees.

Many companies limit the days new hires may start; for example, the 1st and 15th of each month. The orientation can be well-organized and that new employees receive the attention they need to feel comfortable.  With the huge role that computers play in today’s businesses, new employees need to receive thorough training in your company’s technology and the rules for its use.  Also, here is a good opportunity to incorporate some online training.  Orientation training could include online exercises and quizzes to make sure that they have absorbed the material.  Many companies no longer have printed employee handbooks, but have a series of webpages set up on the company's Intranet with the rules and regulations. This way as regulations change or rules are updated, a simple, one-time change is made on the webpage.  Then the employees are notified in some way to alert them to the change.  New employees should receive information on how to use this handbook during the orientation training.

You may be interested in some of the articles on orientation and initial employee setup methods at Workforce

Organization Development: Training and Development is an on-going task to keep your whole organization well-tuned. The organization-wide effort to put strategies, structures, and processes to accomplish the organization's goals.  There are various ways to accomplish this such as surveys, evaluations of events, quality circles, and other methods.  If you don't ask or you don't have a means to obtain feedback, then it will be difficult to know how to move the organization forward.

Next training article will cover Learning styles: People learn differently.  How do you make sure to accommodate different learning styles when you design your training program.

This article was originally published on Digital Harbor On-line in 2004 and was updated in 2014.

© Ginny Stibolt (You may not repost this article, but you may quote parts of it with links to this page. 
Ginny has years of teaching experience from seventh grade through college.  She's also owned three technology companies and has more than 20 years experience with computers and websites.

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