Work-based education can be formal training, informal training, and embedded learning. Most consider formal training to be scheduled instruction delivered by a designated trainer in a classroom instructor or other environment either in the workplace or off site. Informal training can be considered casual education that is provided by coworkers or supervisors during regular work time. Embedded learning does not involve interaction between employees and trainers, which formal and informal training do. Instead, embedded learning is solitary in nature and can take the form of written manuals, computerized training, and online, interactive materials available through public or private websites (Stern et al., 2004).
Keywords Assessment; Corporate Trainers; Cost-Benefit Analysis; Hard Skills; Needs Analysis; Objectives; Outcomes; Soft Skills; Training
Work-based education is big business in America. According to the American Society for Training & Development, in 2006 companies in the United States spent almost $130 billion on employee education and development, which roughly equates to $1,040 per employee. In 2012 the figure was $164.2 billion — and this after a prolonged nationwide downsizing of the U.S. workforce (Miller, 2013). These figures represent direct costs, such as training staff salaries, administrative costs, delivery costs, and workshop costs (ASTD, 2007a).
Work-based education can be formal training, informal training, and embedded learning. Most consider formal training to be “scheduled instruction delivered by a designated trainer in a classroom or similar setting, whether in the workplace or elsewhere. Informal training has referred to unscheduled instruction or coaching provided by co-workers or supervisors during work” (Barron et al, 1997; U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1996a,b, as cited in Stern, Song & O’Brien, 2004). Embedded learning does not involve interaction between employees and trainers, which formal and informal training do. Instead, embedded learning is solitary in nature and can take the form of written manuals, computerized training, and online, interactive materials available through public or private websites (Stern et al., 2004).
When funds are short, training is usually one of the first budget items to be cut. Trainers need to be able to provide effective training and be able to show management that the training offered is effective and will pay off in the long run. According to Caudron (2000), some strategies that can be used include:
• Linking training objectives to the company’s strategies. Trainers can look at the company’s annual report, ask for the top few objectives of each department, and gain an understanding of the company’s goals and strategies. By understanding the company’s specific objectives, they can help assure that employees are all moving in the same direction.
• Addressing the company’s culture. Many times simply presenting the information to employees is not enough. There may be cultural barriers that affect employees’ ability to learn and their willingness to be empowered and take risks if the company’s culture has traditionally been the opposite. An effective trainer needs to understand the company’s climate and address any issues that may get in the way of the training objectives.
• Focusing on training outcomes. Before beginning the process of developing the training, trainers should determine the results the company wants to see come from the training. If there are clear objectives that need to be met, it is easier to develop the appropriate training and how those objectives will be measured if trainers know what the end results of the training sessions should be.
• Willingly embrace different learning methods. The traditional style of training, which is usually standing up in front of a room and instructing, is only one way employees can learn. Trainers should be willing to look at alternative, proven ways adults learn and be willing to incorporate different strategies into their training program.
• Allowing employees enough time to process what they have been taught. Higher-order skills, such as creativity and critical thinking, require more time to learn; so it is important for trainers to find a way to give employees more time to process the information and gain an understanding of the concepts being presented.
• Being discriminating of training suppliers. When looking to select prepackaged lessons or bring in outside assistance for training, it is important to make sure that the outside vendors adhere to the same principles addressed above to help ensure that employees are getting relevant, effective training (Caudron, 2000, p. 36-37).
Developing a Training Program
Chang (1994) suggests the following steps to develop an effective training program:
• Conduct a needs analysis, determine if and how training may help improve job performance, and create training outcomes.
• Select the training approach or approaches that can best support the training outcomes and improve job performance.
• Produce all necessary training tools, such as handouts, visual aids, etc.
• Use appropriate training techniques to present the materials.
• Conduct assessments to determine whether the training did help improve job performance and redesign or tweak the training as necessary.
• Report assessment results to all stakeholders.
• Continue to follow through with assessment to make sure participants are still using what they learned in training (Chang, 1994).
A needs analysis should be completed in order to identify training needs, to make sure that training addresses the need and that it is, in fact, necessary. Once training has been determined to be necessary, it is then necessary to create training objectives and design a training approach, taking into consideration who the participants will be.
Types of Training Approaches
There are different learning approaches that can be used either separately or in conjunction with each other:
Training by lecture, in which the trainer delivers the material to the class. This is the most frequently used method.
• Structured discussion: conversations between participants facilitated by the trainer.
• A panel discussion, which is short lectures or a discussion by a variety of trainers or experts in the field, rather than just one person.
• Case studies, which are written descriptions of relevant situations that contain enough details so participants can discus specifics and come to conclusions.
• Skill application reenacts specific situations so that participants can create their own on-the-job situations of issues and get input from the trainer and other participants.
• Simulation gives a detailed description of a situation that contains programmed decision points that teams of participants can discuss (Chang, 1994).
Producing the necessary training tools includes determining what can be produced based on budget restrictions; making sure that the materials are appropriate for the audience, such as making sure that materials for new employees are not laden with industry jargon or are too technical in nature; and making sure that that all materials are accurate and up to date.
Using appropriate training techniques means making sure that effective delivery skills are used, including proper nonverbal and verbal skills, so that participants are able to understand what is being presented, are actively engaged in their own learning, and are able to retain what has been presented.