The organisational benefits of training and how to get them
Tuesday, September 3, 2019 at 2:42PM
Dr Simon Davey

Training is about improving knowledge and skills in an individual or group. It’s about making it easier for you to do what you do, increasing productivity and making a greater impact with your organisation. About being able to do things better and do better things. New and improved skills don’t always improve organisational services, and staff may not always respond well, so you need to choose training and trainers carefully.

Image (c) zuikoalex

Organisational benefits of ICT training

Not knowing how to do something is frustrating and time consuming. Asking a senior manager how to do something simple is a bad use of resources. Staff must know enough to be able to do what they need to do, well. 

Staff (and volunteers) who are appropriately trained, comfortable in their use of ICT, applications and data and not fearful of technology: 

1. are happier – better organisational ethos
2. are more productive – improve overall service delivery
3. work better as a team – improve effectiveness and reduce management time/costs
4. are less likely to leave their job – reduce management costs
5. enable the organisation to be more effective – better service delivery
6. increase outputs and outcomes – better service delivery

Research shows that organisations who don’t prioritise training have staff with the least IT skills and IT confidence – the latter is often a major factor in poor use of ICT and increases the overall costs of direct service provision as well as staff turnover.

Making the most organisational impact from training – a checklist

1. Know what you need to do - Identify the most important needs for your staff and for your organisation. These might include using your database or monitoring system, using email and the internet effectively, preparing presentations and managing information.
2. Find the right course and trainer/training organisation for the individual –different people have different skills and experience and needs
3. Ensure the new skills can be (and are) used as soon as possible after the training (hours and days not weeks)
4. Evaluate the impact of the training
5. Provide any additional support and training as needed and take feedback on how it went

The role of training

If you want something expert done as a one off, it makes sense to pay an expert with experience as a one off (or for a specific niche role). For everything else, use training for activities/skills that make an ongoing difference.

The three questions you need to ask are: 

1. What difference will this training make to the individual/organisation? 
2. What do we want to get out of it (as an individual and organisation)?
3. What impact will this make on our services? 

Training should always be based on needs and not wants. 

Return on investment

Training costs money. Even if the course is free, you need time out of work, time to assimilate information and practice new skills. But you should also get a payback - training has it’s own ‘return on investment’.

Time off work (and cost of cover staff if applicable)
Course fees
Travel and accommodation expenses
‘Immersion time’ – time to practice new skills and follow up ideas and plans

New skills and techniques learned
New ideas developed
New relationships formed outside the organisation 
Time saved in efficiency and effectiveness ‘on the job’
Increase in outputs and outcomes – getting more done across the organisation
Money saved in recruitment costs (staff staying in the job)

It’s a challenge to resource and something funders also need to take on board. 

The fear factor - resistance to change

Some staff will resist training because they don’t like change. You need to support them, help them overcome their fears and convince them that training will make their lives easier in the long run.

Making training more effective

Training doesn’t stop when the course ends. You may learn new skills on the day, come up with new ideas and even start making new plans. But you need to follow them through. Too much training is wasted because trainees never get the time to practice and implement their skills (or can’t implement them soon enough after the course). It’s important to schedule time for this before you start your training.

Right course, right method, right trainer - time to choose

Be clear about:

what training you need 
what training method/learning style suits the individual
what type of trainer you want
what degree of tailoring you need to the content (i.e. how do the skills and knowledge apply in your own environment – there’s a difference being riding a motorcycle and driving an HGV)

What training do you need?

The first step is a training needs analysis. It makes sense to link this to formal supervisions and appraisals but you could do it at any time. It may even be useful to conduct an annual review as part of your business plan (Learning and Development?). It’s critical to find out what people need (and recognise that they don’t always know what they don’t know). 

Learning styles of individuals are important and will influence the choice of training and the impact it makes. 

Characteristics of a good course/event

1. Suits the individual’s style/nature of learning
2. Offers opportunities to learn and practice skills
3. Is the right level of expertise for the attendees
4. Moves at the right pace
5. Is the right length for the attendees

The best course and content won’t help if it doesn’t clearly fit with the needs of the individual.

What type of trainer you want - what makes a good trainer or training organisation? 

Research shows that we’re more likely to learn from people we feel are:

interested in us
good communicators 
individuals we can get on with (personality and style inevitably play a part)

A good trainer will:

Make you feel at ease
Not criticise individuals but feeds back where appropriate
Communicate clearly and openly
Be an expert (but not know all) in their subject
Have direct experience in the subject
Be honest about their limitations and gaps in their knowledge
Be able to think ‘on the bounce’
Manage the group/session well – act as an effective chair for the event

It’s hard to judge these factors in advance so ask around and get feedback from others who’ve worked with the trainer or training organisation.

Don’t neglect the need to choose the right trainer or training organisation – it’s as important as the course and content.
Why training matters in the not for profit sector

One of the common reasons for not investing in training for charity employees is that they go off and get ‘better paid’ jobs elsewhere with their new skills. The job market in the voluntary sector has always been fluid and your newly trained employee may well leave you. The likelihood is that they will go to another charity but that the person who replaces them will have been trained by someone else. It’s a risk investing in staff but a risk well worth taking. Your employees are much more likely to leave (and be unproductive) if they’re frustrated and unskilled – you might just be holding them back from the opportunity.

Training Action Plan for your organisation

1. Decide the key training and development priorities for the organisation for the next year and three years respectively (these must fit your business plan and key objectives)
2. Carry out a training needs analysis in your organisation for all staff (from senior management to junior admin). Find out what they don’t know they don’t know!
3. Work out the learning styles and training preferences for all staff producing individual learning plans
4. Check out what training you can get for free and what you need to pay for (will a webinar, short seminar suffice over a formal course)
5. Schedule dates and flexibility in workplans
6. Build in costs and flexibility into grant applications (training is part of infrastructure)
7. Make sure the training happens, has impact and follow up on progress
8. Review annually

Summing up

Organisations which invest in staff and volunteers tend to be happier and more productive places to work and have lower employee turnover. They produce more outputs and outcomes and pay attention to individual needs in clients as well as workers. Training costs time and money but is fundamental to a successful organisation. Choose wisely and measure the impact.

It’s always wise to take recommendations from others if you want the best experience.
Article originally appeared on Dr Simon Davey - Strategy, Technology, Data and Change (
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