How to Make the Most of Professional-Development Workshops

If you’re a corporate executive, you already know that your employees’ skill sets need to be updated on a regular basis – perhaps most crucially, people skills such as leadership, communication, and teamwork. Large, dusty auditoriums, sheets, books, and death-by-PowerPoint were all part of the deal in the old days. Enlightened employers eventually realized that having smaller, more intimate spaces for the exchange of ideas is more constructive, and this worked well for a while. Everything has shifted to video conferencing services like Zoom or Microsoft Teams since the outbreak. The content remained the same, but the way we received it seemed to have changed forever.

The burning questions now are: Do these seminars (virtual or in-person) enhance talent, do they result in a discernible change in performance or attitude, and how do you assess it?

I’ve learned how to better select seminars for the greatest learning potential, increased engagement, and better outcomes over time.

1. Needs assessments

This should go without saying, but determining the exact training requirements is critical before getting started. Frequently, I’ll meet potential clients who recognize that their team could benefit from some training but are unable to articulate their needs in concrete terms, as well as define them in terms of degrees (some improvement required, the significant improvement required, etc.) and, most importantly, the level of urgency. As a result, I recommend that they ask the following questions: What issues aren’t being addressed, or aren’t being addressed adequately?

Is the problem one of knowledge, one of attitude, or both?

What is the employee’s (or employees’) current status? Connecting learning needs to the company’s performance evaluation approach is a wonderful way to analyze this.

Related: 10 Successful Career Development Tips for University Students

2. Develop a learning plan and connect it to actual performance evaluation

Now that the overall requirement scenario has been somewhat sketched out, the most advantageous way to proceed with selecting workshop(s) is to create a learning plan and relate it to a higher objective. You might start with a modest aim like “I’d like the team to be better at presenting presentations at meetings,” but there may also be a chance to increase a team’s total capability. Examine how your firm evaluates its performance: Do you want your staff to get along with one another? If that’s the case, include a teamwork session. Do you want particular individuals of your team to be groomed for greater responsibilities? Then invite such individuals to a special leadership workshop. A three- to five-module learning plan can include a wide range of quantifiable goals that help an individual grow in the firm.

3. Create cohorts

For bigger groups of teams, it may be advantageous to separate each group into subgroups; each one receives training at different times, providing for a more intimate atmosphere in which each person may actively engage and ask questions. This could also be an opportunity to give distinct skill groups options, such as the leadership track, individual contributor track, special projects track, and so on. Each track could finish a foundation of information to reinforce fundamentals before addressing any particular needs.

Related: 15 Steps to Improve Writing Skills Like a Professional

4. Build relationships with instructors

Employers frequently make the mistake of selecting a training teacher but then having little to no communication with them outside of the bureaucratic (hiring) phase. This is a major missed opportunity because a good instructor is motivated to help a team succeed and develop skills that improve their work output, and your concerns about the team’s deficiencies should be communicated thoroughly and on a regular basis — the instructor and you should essentially become your own team in the process.

5. Emphasize conversations as much as content

Given the abundance of self-help books on the market today, as well as TED lectures and other online media, one-way passive information delivery has limited value. The only form of professional development you should enroll your team in is one that is highly participatory, personalized, and outcomes-driven, encouraging them to think about issues, solve problems, and learn via doing.

It’s all about outcomes

All the training in the world won’t help if it doesn’t improve employee performance, but how can you know if it’s working? Yes, you could conduct pre-and post-surveys, as well as statistical analysis and possibly a 360-degree evaluation for a select group of managers. Testing skills in the wild, on the other hand, offers a better tale. Put the employee in charge of providing the next team update to the VP if they attended a presentation skills seminar. If the seminar is about conflict resolution, have them participate in a supervised problem-solving session with a partner, take notes, and get feedback. The easiest way to tell if the training was effective is to observe the outcomes for yourself, which should include (ideally) excitement, confidence, and a sense of accomplishment when they hit a home run.

Because employees’ requirements, difficulties, and outcomes change over time, training must alter as well. Asking yourself if you’re making the same mistakes as last quarter is the easiest way to tell if you’re on the correct track. Are you a quick runner? Is everyone on the same page? Is it necessary for me (as the leader) to handle more or less? The more favorable responses you receive, the more likely you are on the correct track. That’s how it’s done: just keep moving forward.

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