The Importance of Training

Providing the necessary training creates an environment where team members and other stakeholders can work independently without constant help or supervision from others. Training improves performance, reduces errors and can provide a valuable intrinsic motivator for people.

Cross-training (spreading skills around) also builds more knowledgeable teams where people can take over for one another as needed. This reduces the risk of skills gaps or bottlenecks/delays while waiting for specialized tasks to complete.

1.5.1 Determine Required Competencies and Elements of Training

(Assessing skills to determine training needs)

Determining the required skills and competencies can be done through assessments such as:

  • Skills gap analysis
  • Surveys
  • SWOT analysis

 

As an example, we could decide team members need skills in four areas:

  1. Knowledge – demonstrated by passing a credentialed assessment such as CAPM, PMP, DASSM, etc
  2. Performance – ability to undertake work to particular quality and capacity standards
  3. Personal skills– communicating, listening, leading, building relationships, support, resilience
  4. Industry-specific – knowledge of standards, legal and safety requirements, technical tools, industry norms and terms, etc

 

Given these four domains, we could assess stakeholders and team members.

In the example above, we see current competence levels plotted in the inner dark green shape compared to our competent definition shown in the larger, outer square.

(This is just an example; your project may have three domains or six domains you care about. Or you may not use a competency assessment framework and just go from an informal skills-gap review.)

An example of an assessment could take into account self-assessment scores, manager scores and those of peers. Engaging others in the assessment process is useful since people often have deficiency-blindness, meaning they are not aware of their own gaps and do not know where they need the most help.

In the example above, a competency score of “4-Above Average” is required for “Active Listening,” and while the self-assessment score is a 4, the average score factoring in other people’s inputs is only 2.75. So it looks like some training might be required.

Once we know what training is required, we should determine what options are available and which to select.

1.5.2 Determine Training Options Based on Training Needs

(Mother duck chooses between teaching her ducklings to swim by throwing them in at the deep-end or finding a safe, shallow pond.)

There are three main types of training available.

  • On-the-job Training – experiential learning while we work
  • Formal Training – going on a course of some type
  • Informal Training – learning by ourselves

 

Then, within each category, many options available.

They each have their own time and cost requirements. Each will also appeal to different learning styles. We should try to match the format and learner preference to achieve the required results efficiently. If people say they like to learn online or by observing, let them try that first, but if we do not get the results needed, different approaches may be required.

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Agile approaches frequently use pairing/mentoring to share information and build skills within the team. It enables experienced team members to coach less experienced members. A good practice is to change the pairings periodically to give junior team members exposure to multiple perspectives and further share project knowledge throughout the team.

1.5.3 Allocate Resources for Training

(Make sure we have everything we need for training to be successful)

Allocating the training resources involves booking the training courses, events or supplies needed and paying for them. Then scheduling the training and making sure people are committed to taking it.

Training should be done as close to the point where it will be used as possible. Allocating resources for training involves the following tools and deliverables:

  • Training and mentoring plans
  • Training estimates
  • Training budgets
  • Training calendars

 

When estimating training costs be sure to include:

  • Content creation, customization and updating costs
  • Content hosting and delivery costs
  • Instructor costs, including preparation and transportation
  • Courseware printing, binding and distribution
  • Venue costs, food costs
  • Backfilling critical roles, if necessary, to free-up people to attend

 

To help ensure people attend the training, project managers should create awareness about the sessions. This can be done through training calendars, training invitations, registrations and collecting rosters of everyone who attends the whole session.

1.5.4 Measure Training Outcomes

(Measure the results of training – ideally by assessing on-the-job performance improvements)

It is not enough to organize training where required. We also need to make sure it occurs, that it worked and if it was any good. Tools we can use to measure these attributes include

  • Certificates and records on completion – for instance, did Fred actually attend the “Anti-procrastination” course or just put it off again?
  • Training skills/gap analysis – When we repeat our assessments, have improvements occurred?
  • Training course feedback – Was the training worthwhile, good-value, and engaging? Should we use this approach again or look elsewhere in the future?

The Motivation of Mastery

Enhancing our skills and improving within our craft and industry is a powerful motivator for many people. It provides the opportunity for career progression and taps into our human nature that rewards problem solving and learning. Most people want to improve their skills. Maybe just to get a promotion or pay rise, but often for personal growth.

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Do not underestimate the role of training for team member motivation. Ask team members what skills they would like to develop and wherever they are aligned with the project and organizational goals, try to find ways to incorporate them. If nothing else, taking the time to show interest in people’s personal and professional development will set you apart from poor or mediocre project managers and frequently generates higher commitment.  

Deliverables and Tools

  • Training and mentoring plans
  • Training estimates
  • Training budgets
  • Training calendar
  • Certificates and records on completion
  • Training skills/gap analysis
  • Pairing, mentoring and apprenticeships
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