How to develop an effective training and development strategy

Employee development is one of the most important investments that you can make in your organisation. Unfortunately, the trend we’ve witnessed over the pandemic is for personal and professional development budgets to be put on ice. Arguably, this is the time when training is more important than ever to maintain both performance and wellbeing. Leaders and teams need time, space and investment to adapt to the new world of work and the myriad challenges we’re currently facing, such as:

  • Dealing with distributed teams and staying connected
  • Dealing with uncertainty and adapting to change
  • Developing personal and team resilience
  • Understanding context and purpose
  • Developing appropriate and effective communication methods
  • Understanding employee wellbeing and promoting good balance
  • Developing team norms and expectations
  • Trust and empowering the team from a distance

Coupled with these challenges, organisations also face restricted budgets and leaders in ‘fire-fighting’ mode. Many organisations didn’t have effective ways of measuring team performance before Covid-19 hit, so they can only best-guess how teams are actually handling these changes. So, if budgets are limited and organisational priorities currently lie elsewhere, what should be considered in developing an effective training and development strategy?

Key Steps to an Effective Strategy

Training shouldn’t be a one-off or series of discrete activities, but a planned, measured and consistent investment in improving performance and wellbeing. 

The place to start is with your people. Ask them what they need – run a simple ‘discovery meeting’ which focusses on gleaning subjective feedback from the team. Back this up with some empirical measurement. PCS is ideal because it poses survey questions that allow for both quantitative and qualitative feedback. Collate your findings and start to pin-point exactly where training and development interventions are most needed for that team.

You can also start to look at trends across the organisation. Are there obvious skills gaps that need to be addressed? Are there sections of the organisation that are thriving and are there opportunities to share knowledge and skills? If budgets are tight, then focus on the area of greatest need and the one that is going to get your teams back to productivity and health the quickest.

Next, consider the method of training. It doesn’t need to be expensive, but it does need to be done! Explore a range of options: one to one coaching, peer support or virtual team building events. The rapid adoption of online communications opens up a world of possibilities for virtual training. These can be e-learning or using virtual meeting platforms. Increasingly, coaches and trainers are creating effective facilitated learning spaces, which can be a cost-effective approach. When contracting external facilitators, make sure that there is fit and rapport with the organisation. Do trainers and coaches understand the business and its values? Have they done this type of work for your sector before?

Ensure that you are communicating the purpose and aim of any training and development programme with your people. Describe how training is about future preparedness, capacity building and resilience – not about seeking out problem people or addressing underperformance. To engage effectively with a training programme, people need to feel safe and supported.

Assess the impact of training. You’ve already surveyed your people to tailor interventions and now you need to remeasure to check that they’re working and make any tweaks or adjustments to the programme. Put in regular progress checks and make sure that you are communicating improvements, not just to the Board, but to the people participating. Everyone wants to know when things are going well and goals are being achieved!

Last but not least, develop a corporate mindset of continual improvement and seeking excellence. When the pandemic first hit, it was perfectly understandable that other priorities took over. But for every leader, now is the time to invest in medium and long-term development programmes which prepares the organisation to cope with potential future shocks and inevitable change.

In summary…

The need for development is needed now more than ever.  It’s about managing and equipping people to deal with the current situation and preparing for future change. Designing an effective learning and development programme is about building readiness and capability to perform at our best, irrespective of the external environment. Accept the need for a discovery phase to understand first and look for ways to measure and benchmark performance and wellbeing. Use a mix of objective and subjective data to design training that is relevant and designed around need. Ensure any new programme is pitched the right way to the right audience. Build in constant reviews and evaluation of impact and don’t be afraid to adjust: the most effective training plans are often agile. And finally, keep it engaging, relatable and fun! People really do need a bit of that right now…

Michael Payne, Executive Director, PCS, Sept 2020

Zac's Challenges:

Zac’s tech business is growing rapidly. He’s gone from being a developer with a good idea to now overseeing an ever-expanding team. Zac knows that in order for the business to grow successfully, it needs to stay true to its founding values and his staff need to feel valued and engaged. Zac wants to understand if he and his team are on the same page and he needs to do it quickly and cost effectively.

Zac's PCS Solution

Zac decides to use PCS Lite to get a quick temperature check of how his team are performing and what they think about the business. The PCS Lite report quickly surfaces the fact that his team have lost sight of the organisation’s purpose and goals. Zac realises that he needs to improve his on-boarding processes and help orientate the new team members better in the company culture and vision. 6 months later, Zac uses PCS Lite to check his new onboarding process is working; concludes that the growing team are much better aligned to his vision and are generally operating in a more positive working environment.

Annabel's Challenges:

It’s Annabel’s job to help the Partners in the firm manage their clients and ensure they’re consistently adding value. Recently, Annabel has been asked by one of the Partners to find a tool or framework that the consultants can use to benchmark new clients looking for team and leadership improvement programmes. It needs to be cost-effective, established and reputable and able to be branded with the firm’s own logo.

Annabel's PCS Solution

Annabel recommends PCS Pro to the Senior Partners as it provides an objective measurement of team and leadership climate against which the consultants can build performance improvement programmes. PCS has a good track record, academic validation, excellent training and customer service, so she’s confident that it’s the right tool for the firm’s consultants to use.

Sarah's Challenges:

Sarah has to keep across the multiple training and development needs in the organisation and do it within a tight budget. Recently, Sarah’s been asked to design a L&D programme that improves the staff retention rate and helps staff feel more engaged with the changes happening in the organisation, not least the shift to more flexible working.

Sarah's PCS Solution

Sarah uses PCS to measure how different teams across the organisation are performing and look at any patterns which suggest the need for organisation-wide, leader or team training. Sarah notices that all teams and leaders have a low climate score in the Processes segment. Sarah knows that allocating budget in this area will improve performance. She works with the Senior Management Team to review the organisation’s processes as they transition to more flexible working and designs a training programme to support staff in the transition. She’s helped staff to feel supported, acknowledged and engaged which ultimately drives performance. 

Jim's Challenges:

Jim’s client has a team that’s not performing as well other teams in the organisation. The team has a high staff turnover, sickness and the lack of cohesion is impacting the team’s wellbeing and performance. Jim needs to get to the bottom of why this is happening and design effective coaching interventions which can generate tangible results for his client.

Jim's PCS Solution

Jim uses PCS Pro to measure / benchmark how the team and leader are performing across the 6 segments critical to team performance – Goals, Roles, Processes, Adaptability, Connection and Resilience. He can immediately see the disparity in Goals, Processes and Connection between the leader’s perception and those of her team. He uses this information to build a coaching programme designed align team and leader. After 6 months, the team seems to be more settled and productive. Jim remeasures using PCS Pro – the results show the client the effectiveness of his coaching intervention.