Training matters…we all know it does, but do we know why and are we maximising the impact of any training we are purchasing and/or participating in?
Those are the questions I explored with the live theatre audience during my recent Nursery World Show presentation. I’ve turned the content of that presentation into a blog to share, remember to post your thoughts and any questions in the comments section.
So, training…you know it’s important but do you understand why?
Attending training brings fresh skills into the nursery team, helps generate new ideas and sometimes even new revenue streams. Training inspires staff to achieve more.
It can improve quality of provision as best practice is shared and a deeper understanding of the theory behind why we do the things we do helps us to value those tasks and the impact they have on the quality of our service.
Underpinning knowledge is enhanced and the links to regulations become clearer….often we have to participate to meet regulatory requirements but good training is never just a “had to do it”, rather it is a true learning process with a measurable benefit beyond ticking a box…after all nobody wants to be just a box ticker.
Providing training also gives accountability, remember we cannot hold anyone responsible for failing at a task if we haven’t trained them in how to do it in the first place.
It makes our teams feel valued, invested in and respected…and let’s face it we could all do with some of that.
Where appropriate it should be fun and even the toughest of training topics should leave learners feeling they have participated in a rewarding experience.
It helps to strengthen and re-iterate shared goals, we set them together (or we should have) so working on them together is a great way to strengthen our commitment to meeting them.
So you know it’s important, you’re committed to doing it but argh! You’re faced with so many options…how do you know which to choose? How do you understand what your staff need? Who should attend and why? Who should pay? Where and when will the training be held?
Let’s look at some of the options…
DIY: Can be excellent, can be hard work….remember it doesn’t have to be the manager that does it, do any of team have skills to share?
Training Providers: there are some fab trainers and training organisations out there, take references, consider using members of sector groups, think about the location…your place or theirs?, what about the cost? And remember…always ask can the training be tailored to your specific needs.
Local Authority training sessions: As we all know budget cuts mean access to training through our local authorities is now very limited…if it’s still available to you and your team grab it while you can.
Full team events: Always consider do all staff need the same training? Could a group event be shared with other local provisions? Could a couple of team members attend an open event then cascade the training to the broader team?
Annual training plans: these can be for the full setting and/or for individual team members and are useful to help you stay focussed.
E-learning: this can be really effective, it limits the impact on time out of centre, can track and record training, it’s growing in availability and increasingly people are turning to on-line courses to support a blended training approach…after all some of what we do doesn’t have to be face to face and if we can keep precious time for the courses that really benefit from face to face delivery by utilising e-courses where possible it can be an effective way to meet training goals.
Mentoring: this is a great way to bring on less experienced team members in a supportive manner, it values people’s skills and in a caring workforce such as this there are many naturally great mentors.
CPD: Wikipedia definition…Continuing professional development or continuing professional education is the means by which people maintain their knowledge and skills related to their professional lives…vitally important for all of us.
Qualifications: think about what your staff need? What do they already have? Consider a matrix of qualifications for your setting.
The reality of course is not likely to be any one of these options but is more likely to be a blended approach incorporating some face to face, some cascaded learning, some self-driven learning (researching theory, trade press, events etc.), full team events and some online courses.
We’ve looked at the options so now let’s look at the decision making process.
Lots of things to consider and we’ll look at each one individually but remember it is a process. Collins dictionary defines a process as “a series of actions that produce a change or development”. It is not a snap decision, generally not a solo decision (unless it’s just for you for your personal goals) and it’s not an acceptance of what is given to you by others with no involvement from you.
Let’s start with your team.
We can all be guilty of deciding for our teams but to gain maximum engagement should be involving the team in identifying their own areas for development…most people have pretty good understanding of what they are good at and the areas in which they need further support.
Your team need to be confident that they can come to you or their line manager and ask for support, training and advice, they need to feel valued and respected as an important part of the team and to play a part in creating a cycle of ongoing reflection, review and improvement.
A great way to start this is by asking them, regularly and in a non-judgemental way:
Do they have the skills and knowledge they need to do their job well?
Do they have any training needs?
Are there any areas they want to develop in and what do they need to achieve their goals?
How do their goals contribute to those of the broader room, setting and business?
If you are the team member then don’t be afraid to speak up, talk to your manager about the training you believe you need. Be prepared…tell them why you think you or the team should do that particular training, what benefits it will bring and how and where you can do it. Be pro-active…be the difference in your own career, the success of your nursery setting and the outcomes for the children you care for.
Now let’s consider the different learning styles in your team.
Every team will have different learning styles but in nurseries as in life it takes all sorts and a team with a broad range of skills, interests, learning styles and character attributes but with a shared goal and willingness to work together is a formidable thing.
Get to know your staff’s differing learning styles, ask them, observe them, include it in their personal development plans…then value and respect the differences and tailor professional development to have maximum impact for your team.
I’m sure you all know about the differing learning styles listed so won’t go into detail on them but in quick summary;
Visual learners: generally think in terms of pictures. Like to see things written down in a handout, text or on the overhead. They find maps, graphs, charts, and other visual learning tools to be extremely effective and they remember things best by seeing something.
Auditory learners: generally learn best by listening. They typically like to learn through lectures, discussions, and reading aloud. Their memory works best through hearing things or speaking them aloud.
Kinaesthetic learners: learn best through moving, touching, feeling, and experiencing.
Read-write learners: enjoy reading, they like to read to themselves rather than being read to, they take notes and will look things up in a dictionaries and reference books.
Remember most people will be a bit of a mixture but will be predominantly one of these styles and you need to ensure the training you provide meets the differing learning styles.
A training needs analysis is a great way to learn more about the training needs in your team. It sounds complicated but put simply it is an investigation into the training requirements of your team. It helps find the best balance of skills and abilities and creates a framework for managers and staff to work towards.
When carrying out training needs analysis you need to look at what skills are needed to run your business. Consider if your existing team have the required skills and knowledge and identify any gaps. Of course you will find lots of skills and qualifications are in place but you will also find gaps and perhaps find out more about the personal goals of your team.
Carrying out a training needs analysis involves the use of job specifications, regulatory standards information, interviews with team members, surveys, quizzes and patience. It is useful to create a simple matrix to cross reference skills and qualifications needed with those already in place…this can be for each individual or at team overview level. Templates are available but might be better to create one to match specific needs of your setting.
BNG can help and offer advice as will many training providers across the sector.
Budget and time are likely to be key considerations in your decision making process.
Never something we like discussing but we need to be upfront and acknowledge that they can create barriers to training. You should consider
Pricing varies hugely across the sector, training is a pretty fragmented industry with a range of provider types including colleges, training providers, consultancies, and coaches. Do your research, don’t be afraid to ask about funding options, payments plans and discounts. Be creative…do all of the team need to attend or can some attend then cascade the learning? Can you share the training and the cost with a neighbouring setting? Can you offer to be a host venue for a training provider in return for a few free places on a group course? Remember though your training provider is a professional and will have worked hard to create the training course and materials and as with anything in life there is an element of you get what you pay for.
I would generally use the yardstick…will the business benefit? If yes then the business should generally pay. If no…ask yourself why are you doing the training anyway? Of course it is frustrating to pay for training for a member of your team then lose them as their new skills or qualifications make employing them an attractive proposition for your competitors. You could use a training agreement to reduce the impact of this where the employee agrees to stay for an agreed period of time after the training investment and if they leave before this time is up they pay back a percentage of the training cost.
- Are there any funding options out there?
Yes for qualifications there are but not so much for professional development courses…ask your training provider as they may know of opportunities for funding.
- When will the training take place? And what implications will it have on maintaining ratios?
Well you are running a busy nursery so of course releasing staff during operational hours can be a nightmare and can have implications on ratios…how do you continue to meet them, cost of backfill etc. Could you allow a limited number of staff to have time out of the setting during the day? What about evenings? Or weekends? You need to consider that the team will be tired after work of an evening and time will be limited to around 3 hours. Saturday training sessions eat into staff’s personal time and it’s a lot to ask of your team but sometimes it’s the only way.
- What about payroll and toil time?
Do you pay staff for hours spent attending training or give them toil time? Well of course it depends on what is in your contracts but remember your staff will be gaining skills and qualifications from attending the training so this one is down to a bit of negotiation and give and take. Perhaps if your staff members each have an individual training plan in place you could agree to pay for a set percentage of it or perhaps you pay for regulatory required courses but not all courses…very much down to the individual setting and there is no definitive answer but speak to your staff or if you’re the staff member speak to your employer and don’t let this become a barrier to attending training.
Now consider attitude and personality.
Some similarities to what we discussed around learning styles but this one focusses on the attitudes and personalities within your team. If you have a team member who is adamant they are not giving up time at weekends to attend training there is absolutely no point booking them on a Saturday course without first addressing the reasons they say they cannot do this.
Similarly if you have a shy and retiring staff team member you would be wasting their time and your money sending them on a course from which you expected them to cascade knowledge to the entire team…it’s just not going to happen. Consider if you could send two people so they could share the task of cascading their new knowledge and skills…don’t rule out that shy person but try to support them to be able to participate in a way they are comfortable with.
On the other hand if you have a really confident staff member, or someone with a particular skill you could consider asking them to share it with your team, in house training of the DIY variety can be a great success. The team are all comfortable with each other so are likely to be more confident in speaking up and getting involved…no making a fool of themselves in front of a stranger. In early years we’re all happy to do all sorts of things with the children as our witnesses but many of us clam up in front of adults we don’t know. Asking a member of the team to deliver training in this way is also a real confidence boost for their ego, a great way to show that you respect and value them and their skills.
If you are the team member asked to attend a course that you either don’t want to attend or are nervous of attending share your concerns with your manager and try to reach a solution…you don’t want to miss out on valuable training opportunities and they need you to keep you knowledge up to date and to take part in professional development.
If you are the team member asked to deliver an in house training session…go you! Enjoy, share your skills and knowledge and be proud that your talents have been noticed.
Finally remember the blended approach…does it need to be a face to face, classroom session or could it be an online course? What’s going to be the most effective solution for you and your team?
Use your network.
Everyone here today has a network of peers in this sector…some of us have more connections than others but we all have connections and we can use this valuable resource in many ways when planning training.
Planning to use a trainer or training company? Ask your peers in the sector, your neighbouring nurseries etc. if they have used them? What were they like?
Get together and agree training topics you all need and share the cost.
If you have a particular skill or talent, could you offer training to others on a reciprocal basis…agree what each of you can offer and train your teams together.
Yes we’re are in many ways competitors but we are all in this game for the same reason…to provide high quality, fun, safe and caring early year’s experiences for the children and families at our setting and collaboration can be a great asset in achieving your goals around training.
Choice made…time to make the most of it.
So you’ve taken all the right steps to choose your training…now time to make the most of the opportunity you have invested in.
Know where you are starting from…what do you and your team know today…how can you build on that?
Review individual training needs, incorporate this in your staff supervision, if you are the staff member ask your employer if you can discuss your training needs…remember be prepared with the reasons why you need the training you are requesting and what the benefits will be. If you’re asking your employer to cover the cost of the training think about how you can extend the learning benefits to the wider team…cascading information through in house training.
Have a shared goal and make sure everyone knows it…work with your team to set aims and values for the setting…your training investment should support these aims and values. Make sure you and your team have clear understanding of what success in achieving your goal will look like.
Get involved…whether you are the staff member or the employer, get involved, speak up…if you see a training need or are aware of a great training opportunity…share, speak, take part in it together and have fun. Training can be great team building…go for it.
Talk to the trainer, ask them to help tailor the training…are you facing a particular issue in your setting? If so can they incorporate it in your training? Remember bespoke course creation is expensive but skilled trainers can generally reflect your challenges and make their training courses “real” for your team.
Make sure the training is contextual and relevant…provide information for the employee about why the new skills or knowledge is necessary. Be sure everyone understands the link between the training and their job. The impact of the training will be greatly increased if the people taking part see the link between the training and the achievement of their and the nursery’s goals.
If you have been asked by your employer to attend training and you can’t understand why…then ask. Remember the training will be far more relevant to you if you know why you are doing it and what you hope to gain.
Good to go?
So you’ve booked the training, decided who is participating, you know your starting points, goals and success criteria. You’ve agreed clear plans with the training provider and taken all the pre-event steps you can to ensure things go well…you’re done, yes? Well actually no…the next thing to keep in mind is:
Be prepared…if you or your staff are attending an outdoor learning course make sure you’ve got the appropriate clothing and footwear. Remember that old adage…about there being no such thing as inappropriate weather and if you’re training outside in the wet, get your wellies on.
If it’s an online course, check that any participants have the I.T equipment they will need and know how to log on and access the course.
If there is reading to be done before attending then make sure everyone has the notes and time to read them.
Go into it with an open mind and a willingness to get involved…in training as in life we get out what we put in so go for it.
After the training reflect and review…how did it go?
Were the team engaged and actively participating? Was it fun? Have you/they learnt anything new? What, of the things you learnt, will you apply to your daily practice?
In the words of Wikipedia; Reflective practice is the capacity to reflect on action so as to engage in a process of continuous learning. A key rationale for reflective practice is that experience alone does not necessarily lead to learning; deliberate reflection on experience is essential.
So take the time to think, use your original goals and consider did the training meet them, have you achieved what you set out to and can you see any impact on daily practice.
Measure the impact…your measurement technique will vary according to the training topic but you should be able to see a real and lasting impact on your setting, yourself and your team.
Was it sticky? Measuring the impact of your training is a vital part in understanding if it has worked for you, measurement informs future purchasing and helps plans next steps. Measurement records feed into development plans and can provide great regulatory evidence. You should measure: Engagement; Learning; Transfer of learning to daily practice and Impact on service
It’s good to have a template to record expectations and goals pre training as well as a means of recording how well the training met your expectations, what you will take from the training into your daily practice and what the next steps for you are.
It’s also good to look at the impact a few months after the training, are the things you learnt still evident in your work place. If the training was in response to issues in the workplace have those issues now been resolved? Are you seeing improved outcomes in your provision?
You can also rate the training provider, the materials used and venue….all useful information to have at hand when planning future training opportunities.
Record it…evidence matters.
As we all know only too well we are a highly regulated industry so it makes sense to record and keep evidence of training that has taken place, the reasons it was chosen and the outcome of the training.
It can help to keep a simple matrix showing all staff and their record of training as well as keeping individual records for each person. These records can be kept in paper files or on secure online platforms…just be mindful of data protection.
Individual staff members should take responsibility for their own training records…it’s all about ownership and accountability, training is something to be valued and it is important that our workforce is proud of its commitment to training.
Remember it’s a continuous cycle of improvement.
You need to regularly update training records, review your training needs analysis and keep checking that those benefits are still evident in your daily practice.
Training is not a one off activity it’s an ongoing process and there are always next steps needed so take the time, using the methods discussed today, to identify those next steps and go for it.
Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts on training…why not share your thoughts with a comment.