Targeted training

Totally Gaming Academy head of education and training Andrew Spencer highlights the importance of identifying training needs in the context of both individuals and the business as a whole


Continuous learning is a lynchpin of great business practice, but training for the sake of it will never get the desired effect. Totally Gaming Academy head of education and training Andrew Spencer identifies three questions to ensure you’re giving the right training to the people that need it With so much training on offer, it can be difficult to sift through the learning opportunities for staff and select the ones that are most likely to further your business. Appraisals can be a good opportunity to identify the needs of individuals, but these still need to be weighed against the priorities of the business.

We’ve all been privy to company-wide emails proffering “the scheduling of a two day course to be made available to all current and aspiring managers in our company,”  titled the 21st Century Manager,  for example.

Usually, these are the result of one of two situations, HR has booked a trainer for a day and needs to fill the places to justify the fee, or a senior managers thinks s/he’s found a panacea in management thinking and wants to run a session on it so people have to fill it.

In either case, HR has tried to do the right thing and make sure that the company training plan is a coherent mix of the training required from around the organisation. Whether it be essential compliance, health and safety or the strategic management development programme.

The result is a carefully compiled timetable of scheduled courses and programmes.

The flaw in the process isn’t usually HR’s consolidation of training requirements, but management‘s approach to deciding on the needs. HR is usually simply responding to management’s wish list.

Pinpointing the need There should be three primary concerns when pinpointing the training needs of your organisation: • What are the business’s priorities? • What issues are confronting the business and sector at the moment? • What does your annual training plan identify as key skill development needs across teams?

All too often HR publicises the available provision and managers pick from the list, often forgetting to refer to the appraisal outcome, which would help to match the two together.  There’s then pressure to populate the courses commissioned, and so the pleading email comes around. As I’m sure HR will also attest, the identification of training needs during appraisals is too often a tick-box exercise, and an after-thought.

The training needs summarised on the appraisal form fall under the ‘any other business’ section at the end of the meeting.

I’ve been in frequent dialogues with sales and business development colleagues on how to approach prospective clients about their training needs.  We’re a training provider – our brochure and website can be a sweet shop of different options if we’re not careful.

But I’ve been on the other side of the fence too – bombarded with course calendars. So when I’m confronting providers I tell them what my business training needs are first. The response is often desultory - ‘pick from the menu’.

This brings me back to the three primary concerns outlined above. Relying on those structured questions as prompts; two very significant clients have provided a long term forward plan of training requirements, encompassing a mix of open courses from the menu and in house training.

It’s good for our business and allows plenty of time to tailor the in-house against the client requirement. The spin off benefit for us is market intelligence to inform future programmes and content, alongside future commitment to business.

For example, we offer no training until the trainer has spent three days reviewing workplace practice - a needs analysis - before building the client’s requirements into the course.

The appraisal remains the right place to discuss the individual training needs linked to the business need, but it should not be looked at as a ‘wish list’ from the sweet shop.

Avoid becoming distracted by the appraisal form, and what boxes need to be filled.  Fill it in later and concentrate on the discussion – learning needs, linked to a business plan and an individual’s targets. Let the need drive the training not the calendar and the courses.

Totally Gaming Academy runs courses on a number of disciplines for the igaming industry.