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The Holistic Training Cycle


CycleInspiring employees and building up their self-confidence and self-esteem should be part of a holistic approach to training needs, says Keith Porter. Afterall, your business can only benefit.

Richard Branson once said: "I am often asked: what’s the secret to running a successful business? It’s simple – look after your staff and the business will look after itself."

An integral part of creating a balanced and well-run business is delivering a careful blend of both conventional and holistic training that’s reinforced on a continual basis. Addressing training and development in a pro-active manner ensures the company is not seeking external help to deal with specific problems, but is continually ahead of the game. Conducting a training needs analysis (TNA) is an ideal way of assessing a company’s needs in advance.

"If a manufacturing company invests in new equipment, it will go to great lengths and considerable cost to maintain it correctly. The same cannot always be said when it comes to people."

Keith Porter, Advance Performance

Identifying the training needs of every individual in a business is also an important aspect of creating a comprehensive training and development strategy. People work and respond to things in different ways, so it’s vital to assess the training requirements of your employees and identify the most effective way of delivering it.

While a TNA traditionally focuses on tackling skills shortfalls in areas such as operational functions and information technology, they often neglect important issues like employee morale, communication failures and career development.

Conventional training has to be implemented for a variety of reasons – to improve work-related skills, to broaden knowledge, or to gain a greater understanding of the business. Whatever the company’s size, it’s important to deliver skills-based training at a sufficient level to meet the needs of every individual.

Alongside conventional training should sit a more holistic approach, which goes beyond the traditional techniques and focuses on inspiring employees, building up self-confidence and improving self-esteem.

The key to running a successful business is to monitor and address every angle of the training sphere to ensure that issues such as staff behaviour and business culture are not neglected in favour of run-of-the-mill courses that simply serve to tick a box in the training calendar.

Analysis should initially be carried out internally through either one-to-one, team or divisional sessions that establish concerns or problems that may exist amongst employees.

This should be done at every level of the business to gain a broader understanding of the organisation, the strategy of the business, the main objectives and the vision and values. Not only does this help to identify where training should be delivered, but it ensures that when a training programme is carried out it is relevant to the specific needs of the business.

Setting up a more formal process does not have to be difficult – talk to staff, ask relevant and intelligent questions and gather feedback, which should then be used to formulate a final report. This acts as a useful barometer for the business and an important indicator as to whether further investigation is needed.

External consultants can often be brought in at this stage to carry out what is called, a situation analysis. This is often carried out over several days, and involves a series of meetings with a cross section of employees to gain a better perspective of the issues involved.

For example, by asking a simple question such as 'what do you do?' the consultant can immediately gauge any cultural or operational difficulties through the reply. This can include low morale through negative language used to define different departments, positions and roles within the business. The importance of sending out a common message to employees is something that’s often overlooked, but is an essential part of creating a well-balanced and well-run company.

"Issues such as staff behaviour and business culture shouldn't be neglected in favour of run-of-the-mill courses that simply serve to tick a box in the training calendar."

Another simple way of assessing the training needs of any business is to speak to the people who are directly affected by the productivity of the company – customers or clients. This provides an objective perspective on where any shortfalls may lie.

Not only does this provide a unique insight into the relationships that exist between the company and the client, but it serves as a positive tool for any business in demonstrating to its customers that it intends to improve services.

If you go to a customer or client and say: 'I’m running a training programme around leadership, which is aimed at improving the business that you deal with', this can impact business growth and client confidence.

There are a number of questions you need to ask before implementing a comprehensive training strategy. For example, what are the company’s training needs? What do we need to provide to help people achieve their aims and ambitions? What’s the business’s overall vision? And, how are we going to evaluate the provision of training once it’s been completed? That part is particularly important – having a clear idea of the company’s starting point and being able to identify its end point.

The subsequent training needs analysis can then be carried out either internally or externally. If a business perceives the need to bring in an outside agency it is often because it does not have internal resources to carry out the process itself. Typically, larger organisations have a more comprehensive budget, a dedicated training department that can carry out a broader analysis of the company’s needs.

There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to who should perform a TNA, but you can never underestimate the value of an impartial ear. When you work within a business you invariably only see the internal workings. But consultants can assess different styles and different disciplines. Rather than having specialist knowledge of one particular sector, consultants have the experience of working with large organisations and small businesses in a cross section of industries whether in the private or public sector.

By performing a thorough analysis on an annual basis, a business can stay on top of legislative change, industry progression, and product development. You cannot stand still.

To say that "people are the most important resource in a business" may be a glib statement but if employee needs are not addressed in what is a changing world, then a company can almost verge on being negligent. If a manufacturing company invests in a new piece of plant equipment, it will go to great lengths and considerable cost to maintain it correctly. The same cannot always be said when it comes to people.

Whatever training technique you choose to adopt, the business reason for doing it is the same – return on investment. Employers quite rightly want to balance the cost of training with tangible results. Good training that relates not just to the business, but to individual performance, will help deliver that return. This is because highly motivated people with the right attitude generate more profit for a company, which means a financial gain not just for the employer, but also the employee.

Keith Porter works with Advance Performance providing training needs analyses and behavioural assessments for a range of blue chip clients. For more information go to


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