Formal learning is:
- most valuable when:
- it gives technical skills, theories and explanations that apply directly to work that the employee is doing at the time, and
- most effective when:
- the employee has regular meetings with their manager to discuss how to apply the learning to their role
- the employee feels that their manager supports their specific learning
- the learning-related behaviour change is rewarded.
Training refers to the process of getting the skills required for a certain job. It is formal learning targeting specific activities, for example, understanding a process or how to operate a certain machine or system.
What managers could do
- Outline, preferably in writing, any on-the-job training that the employee can expect to receive and is expected to participate in.
- Many training opportunities are available, both job specific and general. For example, courses to enhance communication skills can improve an employee’s confidence as well as customer and staff relationship skills.
- Speak to your relevant Industry Training Organisation to get ideas about job-specific training opportunities for you and your employees.
- Training may take more than one session depending on the employee’s skill or previous experience. Be patient and allow the employee time. Get them to demonstrate and repeat back to you what they have learnt to ensure they have the right idea.
- Do follow-up checks to ensure employees haven’t picked up incorrect habits when performing tasks.
- Keep records of any training your employee has received. This will help you to keep track of who has attended the training and who hasn’t.
- If a new employee says they have already been trained on a task, ask to see their certificates or get them to ‘show’ you that they can do it to double-check and supervise them until you’re sure they’ve been trained properly.
Other types of formal learning
There are many types of external courses that employers may support the employee attending. These include university or other tertiary institute courses. It will be important to agree from the outset what support the employer will give to the employee when they’re studying.
In workplaces where some employees may not have a high level of literacy (reading and writing skills) improving literacy can benefit both employer and employees. Increasing literacy levels means more staff can read and understand important information such as health and safety information and notices on machinery.
The Tertiary Education Commission has a programme called Skills Highway (external link) which will assist employers to improve employees’ literacy, numeracy and communication skills.
Personal and career development
Development puts emphasis on broader skills, which apply to a wide range of situations. This can include decision-making, thinking creatively and managing people. Development is the continual building of skills and knowledge, including becoming the best you can be in your job and undertaking professional development, along with career planning. Professional development skills are the skills and knowledge that go beyond the scope of your job description, although they may indirectly improve job performance.
Development is an ongoing, shifting process. Managers are in a good position to provide encouragement, support and valuable feedback, along with learning opportunities or resources. Formal training and study away from the job are effective in providing new information, but to actually learn a skill you need to practise. A manager can contribute significantly to their staff member's development by supporting their career development activities within the wider organisation as well as outside of the workplace.
Roles managers might play
Coaching is a form of development in which a person called a coach supports a learner to achieve a specific personal or professional goal. The learner is sometimes called a coachee.