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Expert Interview Series: Mike Morrison of RapidBI About Training Programs That Actually Work

Setting training goals

Mike Morrison is a leading training and change management consultant who specializes in increasing employee engagement through performance. We recently sat down with Mike to hear his thoughts on setting training goals, establishing training structures, and getting trainees’ buy-in regarding the value of the additional education.

Tell us a bit about your background. Why did you decide to create RapidBI?

I started RapidBI initially because I had been using a government-funded business diagnostic tool that was going to be “thrown away” when the department I was working for changed its funding. It was a highly successful tool called The Business Improvement Review. I bought the rights because I wanted this tool to be available to smaller consulting firms. It would have been a shame to lose tens of thousands of pounds of research.

These days, how common is it for companies and organizations to turn to a third party for their training resources instead of developing these materials in-house?

It is increasingly common for organizations to turn to third parties for training resources. In the last five years, I have seen an explosion of internal capability in delivering learning interventions. Unfortunately, to save costs, organizations have promoted people that are passionate about training rather than those that are passionate and have the skills. This means that more people are buying ready-to-use training resources. The resources might have the correct course titles, but they may not fully meet the actual needs of the company. I have seen a trend for people new to training and learning to have experienced consultants like myself as a coach to help them on their growth journey.

If a company or organization identifies a problem or issue, how can they tell if it can be fixed or addressed through additional training?

When a company identifies a problem or issue, they need to determine if it is a process, an operation, or a skill issue for training to be effective. Only if the issue is a knowledge or skill issue is the problem likely to be “fixed” by training. A simple test is to put a person with the skills into the job to see if the issue goes away. If it does, it’s a training issue. If not, it is something else. The key is to measure the need again after the training. if the need is still there, the training was not effective. To many organizations, this Agile-based approach fits well with their operational philosophy. But it’s not the most cost-effective method.

When structuring a typical training course, what are some of the principles you follow in order for the course to be effective?

Ten years ago, I could have answered this easily. But in today’s climate, organizations shy away from traditional courses. The approach I take is a simple one:

  • What is it people need to be able to do after the training?
  • How will we know that they are doing what they should be able to do?

Then I look at the content and break it down:

  • What can they read about on their own? – pre-reading
  • What do I need to take them through? – the main content in the course
  • What do they need to learn through others (activities)? – course activities and group work
  • What do they need line manage support with? – an action plan with the line manager back at work

What kinds of tangible benefits can a company receive by encouraging their employees (or providing funds for them) to complete a safety course? 

Tangible benefits for safety-related training can be a challenge. Most organizations treat this as a compliance issue, and take the lowest cost route as a result. This is rarely the best route.

If they had data from sickness or injuries, it is easier to demonstrate bottom-line value. When done well, good safety training can reduce employee sickness, improve productivity, and increase employee engagement. To me, how an organization approaches safety-related training clearly shows the values of the organization. Are their people important or not?

What are some strategies for getting a worker to view a training course as a learning opportunity rather than a mandatory task which must be endured?

Getting employees to see a training course as an opportunity is easy. But it does take time. The following are things I have done to keep “mandatory training” relevant and interesting:

  • Make sure the training course is seen as relevant to the employee. How does it fit their job?
  • Make the training interesting. Create curiosity.
  • Ensure that senior management are seen to participate too.
  • If a program is annual, change the content a little from year to year, but keep it interesting.

What can the individuals who are taking these courses do to help ensure that they practice what they learn long after the courses have been completed?

To keep skills and behaviors alive in individuals long after the training course is easy if you have competent line managers and team leaders. When people know that managers are interested and supportive of ensuring good practice, the individuals will embrace these practices. Managers need to “catch people doing things right.” They must coach in a non-threatening way on a regular basis. and insist that lessons from the training are applied not just occasionally, but every time.

In the future, what role will online training courses play in helping to maximize the odds of success for companies and organizations?

Online courses for many things, especially mandatory training, is already here. But for online compliance and mandatory training to work, it is vital that individuals realize that getting the “pass” on the screen is not the end of training, but rather the beginning. When training is taken from the classroom to the screen, the manager becomes more responsible for the training outcomes. The manager needs to coach each employee to make sure the learning is applied.

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