More than two-thirds of those surveyed by PricewaterhouseCoopers in its third global study on project management stated that project management training contributed to business performance.
Furthermore, the Project Management Institute’s report “The Competitive Advantage of Effective Talent Management” from March 2013 discovered that organizations with strong talent management programs met 72 percent of their project goals as compared to 58 percent for organizations with a weaker career development focus.
Despite these statistics, up to 21 percent fewer project managers are receiving the training they need from their project management offices in 2013 as compared to 2012, according to ESI International’s May 2013 study, “The Global State of the PMO: An Analysis for 2013.”
This trend is alarming, given the empirical data that shows organizations have more success when they apply on-the-job training and measure learning impact on job performance. ESI’s study found that 56 percent of respondents whose PMOs were active in measuring training impact and learning sustainment claimed more than 75 percent of projects were delivered on time, to budget, within scope and to customer expectations. That number plummeted to 39 percent for those whose PMOs are not active in either.
Budget is often the reason training gets put on the back burner. In its March 2012 report titled “Driving Success in Challenging Times,” PMI found organizations were cutting back on their career development programs for project managers as a result of the “challenging economy and popular austerity measures.” But there is a way to ensure employees get the right training in the right way without breaking the budget or delaying the project. To do so, organizations have to answer the what, how and when of training.
Determine What Really Needs to Be Learned
Companies should ask themselves and their teams: “What do we specifically need to be able to do after training that we couldn’t do before? Do we need to know how to write a use case scenario? Or do we need to capture, redefine and validate requirements?”
The key is to find out specifically what team members need to learn. Companies should:
• Determine what needs to be done and the skills required to accomplish that job. At this juncture, they need not think about people, only the job that needs to be done and what it takes to do that job well.
• Inventory the capabilities of their team members. Organizations should not think of the job at this time either, but instead look at what skills their teams have as a collective unit.
• Match any team member skills to the job or task-related skills, revealing the gaps that should be filled.
• Review the skills gaps to accomplish the job and identify training to improve those skills.
When looking for the right training program, it is important to keep the learner’s role in mind and ensure that the training offered meets the needs of the individual. Organizations should not mix beginners with more advanced learners, for example.
Informal learning is becoming a common component of modern blended learning programs. This is where learners go to help bridge the gap between formal learning and the workplace. It could be a network of colleagues or a collaborative learning environment like an online, learning-focused community of practice.
Developing a Blended Program That Fits the Organization
A blended program brings in the last component of when. Blended learning programs try to match the right knowledge with the best way to deliver it. For example, if a company’s team needs foundational knowledge in a new area as well as very detailed knowledge in a specific area, its solution might include an e-learning class to gain the foundational knowledge with a significantly shorter live training course on the specifics.
A simple blended learning approach built without a huge time investment over a span of four weeks, for example, might look like this:
o Pre-work — three weeks before the learning event, the learners are instructed to devote time to a specific subject before the live event. This prepares the audience and provides theoretical or foundational knowledge so the learner shows up to class ready to practice that knowledge in a specific way. Pre-work would most likely be:
o Individual study like reading a book, news articles, reports, attending e-training or learning-on-demand modules.
o An introduction to a collaborative learning environment or community of practice to start building a network.
o Learning event — in the fourth week, a live or virtual classroom helps the learner put the knowledge into practice. This is dominated by time in exercises or working in groups and not in lectures, offering more of a workshop setting. This type of environment will also allow the collaborative learning network to become more personal as people meet each other.
o Follow-up — this is time for reflection and translation from class to work. This is where the collaborative space shines: people to talk with, ask questions of, help others and a resource to help the learner get started again. The learners are given up to two weeks for this phase.
Some blended learning programs can get rather lengthy as organizations begin to explore a program of study approach rather than individual learning events. The program of study approach covers an entire year or more from start to finish. It would have many components, including live class work, online work and independent study work that would happen between the live events.
Informal learning is taking over more traditional methods of training. When done right, blended learning programs can actually bring teams closer together as each member contributes his or her unique insights, knowledge and skills to the organization’s broader objectives. In today’s environment learning adoption requires a unique approach to capitalize on the right learning taught the right way and at the right time.