BY NANCY TOTH, MA
Professional Development Manager
Businesses have learned in the last two decades that they
cannot afford not to train with more frequency and effectiveness.
Studies have shown again and again that specific, targeted
training has a great effect on the bottom-line.
Strategic organizations recognize that spending on training
is an investment and, increasingly, they look for a return
on the investment.
Training is often required for the performance of a new
task or responsibility or to improve performance on an existing
task or responsibility. Soft-skills training is usually more
conceptual and involves the improvement of how people work
together for greater productivity.
Sometimes training is used inappropriately as a perk, a
reward or a break. Even in cases in which employers and course
participants are seeking real learning, sometimes only token
learning takes place.
- Cognitive learning, which is knowledge
- Affective learning, which is attitude
- Psychomotor learning, which refers to physical skills
|Workplace Soft Skills
- Conflict resolution
- Public speaking
- Problem-solving, etc.
According to learning theory, learning is defined as “a
workplace behaviours.” Given this definition of learning,
we can understand the difference between real learning and
the illusion of learning.
A person can watch a video or listen to a speaker without
taking away any new or enhanced skills.
Workshops that include time for group work and demonstrations
of soft skills give participants an opportunity both to demonstrate
and to practice new skills. Specific tools – problemsolving
models or tip sheets on handling difficult people, for example – increase
the likelihood of changes in work behaviours. Often, there
is no clear measurement of the learning that has been achieved.
Apart from the use of pre- and post-tests, changes in behaviour
are usually best measured after the person has returned to
the workplace. Sending employees for training is essentially
a business decision and should be treated as such.
The best way to achieve real learning – and the resulting
return on investment – is to have a discussion with
stakeholders prior to training and after training. Involving
the participant, the manager and the trainer in establishing
specific expectations is essential. Both the purpose of the
training and the strategy for its use afterwards need to
In the best definition of trainers or facilitators, their
role is to facilitate change in workplace behaviours on behalf
of the sponsoring company. Very few facilitators, however,
provide support following training to ensure that expectations
have been met.
There are different levels of follow-up. At the lowest level,
the trainee is expected to demonstrate the new or enhanced
A secondary, more difficult level might involve a demonstration
that the changes in behaviour have improved the company’s
bottom-line. Other levels of follow-up might measure whether
the trainee has been able to influence others in the company,
as a result of the training.
Supervisors and business owners need to take a more active
role in the development of their staff. They need to select
individuals and courses that meet the development needs of
their company. Initially, follow-up may be weekly to ensure
the change in behaviours. Once the skills have been demonstrated,
the follow-up may change to a monthly basis.
At APEGGA’s Professional Development Day in November,
a day-long session on strategic planning will cover some
of the follow-up needed on workplace behavioural changes.
Take steps to ensure that you and your staff obtain maximum
benefit from training – training that has a positive
effect on your bottom line.
One total quality management maxim states: “What is
not measured is not improved.” It’s worth taking