Training - How to Make it Pay

by Stephen Newton

Before you begin

Plans are useless because they never survive contact with the enemy. However, the process of planning is vital because it allows you to prepare and minimises surprises.

General Eisenhower

You must plan. As a manager, you must be able to state a specific and measurable Training Objective. You need to be able to answer the following questions:

  • What does this individual need to be able to do more of, do better or do differently that they cannot do now?
  • How will I know when they have reached the point where they can do these things?
  • How can I best measure the success of this individual in their role?
  • What is the benefit (‘value’) to my team and to the company of this development?

You should frame the answers to those questions in concrete terms:

  • They will be able to...
  • I will know because ...
  • They will carry out XYZ task under the following conditions...

Checking the trainee’s understanding

In addition, both you and the individual staff member must be able to answer the question ‘What’s in it for me?’, so that everyone understands the benefits to themselves of the training that is planned. This also extends to other team members, who will probably have to provide cover for the individual being trained.

One way to make sure that these benefits are well understood is to ask the person who is to be trained to make a short presentation to the whole team about the content of the course they are about to undertake and the benefits, both to themselves and to the team. The rest of the team can then contribute ideas on (additional) ways in which the training can be used or other benefits that may be seen.

Outcomes agreement

Before deciding on a particular training or development activity, you must determine (and write down) what specific outcomes both you and the trainee seek as a result of the training and over what time-frame.

In other words, you must both be able to answer the question ‘What will be different as a result of this training and by when?’

As a manager, you therefore need to agree the desired outcomes and time-frame with the trainee before a course or other activity is confirmed. It will also be essential to agree a review process and timings, so that you can both be certain that the desired outcomes have been delivered and, if not, what action can be taken to ensure that they are.

The trainee has to buy into the whole process in order for it to be successful. You should therefore get the employee involved in the process of deciding, as early as possible, what development activity is needed, why and what outcomes are sought.


Once the desired outcomes, benefits, review process and so on are agreed, write them down. Both you, as the manager, and the trainee should sign that document to make sure that there is no misunderstanding. In particular, this ensures that the trainee expects a post-event review, not simply to hand over a course attendance certificate so that a copy can be placed in their employment file. You yourself must also commit to doing the review