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Four Keys to Developing Effective Training Plans

How to develop staff to enable them to be successful

Scott D. Hanton, PhD

Scott Hanton is the editorial director of Lab Manager. He spent 30 years as a research chemist, lab manager, and business leader at Air Products and Intertek. He earned...

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Developing staff is a key role of the lab manager. The lab staff is the single biggest investment in any lab. The people cost for most labs range from 40 to 70 percent of the total budget. Investing in training and development enables the lab to realize a return on their investment in people. Since everything the lab accomplishes is through the people, training and developing them can improve all aspects of the lab. Providing continual training provides many benefits, including improved employee engagement, higher retention rates, higher technical performance of the lab, broader coverage of lab activities by staff, greater specialization of technical skills, and better succession plans. To be effective, training must be planned.

Here are three things lab managers can do to develop effective training plans that simultaneously help the staff and the lab succeed:

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#1 – Clarify needs  

Invest in training that enables the lab to address key problems. Labs don’t have the time, energy, or budget to train in everything. Identify where additional training will make the biggest difference and develop a plan to enable the newly-trained staff member to consistently use the new knowledge. It is wasteful to train someone and then ask them to spend their time in other areas. New knowledge must be practiced and exercised to be retained. 

#2 – Focus on building strengths

Identify training opportunities that build on the strengths of the staff. People are much more willing and interested in building strengths than improving weaknesses. Improving on strengths can lead to excellence, where developing weaknesses can, at best, deliver mediocrity. Get to know your staff better so that you know their strengths, then identify where individuals’ strengths correspond to key needs in the lab.

#3 – Plan the training

Building the training expectations, scope, metrics, and milestones into the annual objective for the staff. Prioritize the training in relation to all of the other activities expected of the individual. Including training in annual objectives tells everyone that it is important. In addition, if the training is internal cross-training, include the training in the objectives of the teacher, too. For external training, ensure the cost of the training is included in the budgeting process. Confirm that the scope of the training is something the lab can afford.

#4 – Internal or external training

There are many training options for labs to choose from. Internal training requires no budget but requires time and attention from both the learner and the teacher. Internal training is a great way to pass along knowledge important to the lab's mission from one generation to the next. Internal training also allows the lab to protect vital knowledge. External training can provide new, in-depth knowledge to the lab. Many choices are available across a wide cost range, from free webinars to formal training courses.

Thanks for reading. I hope you can use this information. I am very interested in hearing from you. If you have feedback or comments on this set of tips, or suggestions for future Manager Minutes, I'd love to hear from you. Please reach out to me at shanton@labmanager.comI'm looking forward to our conversations. Thanks.