Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Learning and development

Q. How can we promote learning and development in our organisation?

Promote learning and development initiatives through line management in the first instance and make professional development a visible component of the performance management process.

If you have the means at your disposal, also consider using the organisation's intranet to promote learning and development by:

  • Having a dedicated learning and development portal
  • Publicising the successes and achievements of staff members in the area of learning and development. For organisations without such systems, an office notice board, or even a rewards scheme for those employees who achieved the highest results in a training course are good initiatives to boost staff buy-in.

Q. How can we ensure that learning and development initiatives are relevant to staff members, their job roles and career aspirations?

Make sure training needs analyses are undertaken. These analyses should include

  • Analysis of position descriptions and person specifications
  • Consideration of the alignment of learning and development initiatives with the organisation's strategic and operational objectives
  • Evaluation of learning and development activities to ensure transfer of learning back into the workplace
  • Asking staff for feedback regarding training needs.

What should the organisation do if senior managers are reluctant to invest in L&D programs for staff and they are concerned about staff members being away from the workplace to participate in training?

HR Managers should take the following approaches when dealing with this issue:  

  • Reinforce the link between learning and development and achievement of the organisation's strategic and operational objectives
  • Endeavor to promote learning and development as an important recruitment and retention tool that will help the organisation secure and retain highly skilled and knowledgeable employees 
  • Outline the tangible benefits of learning and development to managers, e.g. acquisition of current industry knowledge and skills, the appeal of highly skilled and knowledgeable employees to customers and clients
  • Also try to show managers how learning and development can assist in turning around poor performance in staff members.

Q. How do we combat poor attendance and 'no shows' at pre-booked learning and development programs?

Some options to combat poor attendance include:

  • Communicate the benefits of learning and development
  • Strengthen the links between attendance and the performance appraisal process
  • Explicitly acknowledge attendee completion of learning and development programs
  • Assess the relevance and currency and learning and development activities to ensure they meet the needs of staff members
  • Encourage line managers to reinforce the importance of learning and development programs in building skills and knowledge.

In some instances where it is believed that non-attendance is a means of "getting out of work" it may be appropriate to include this behaviour as a form of unauthorised absence from work and could be referred to the unsatisfactory workplace performance policy and procedure for resolution.

Q. How does the organisation make clear the different responsibilities of line managers and HR managers in promoting and organising L&D activities for staff?

The learning and development policy should clearly specify the roles and responsibilities of each party in terms of all processes and procedures associated with learning and development activities of the organisation.

Human resource employees are pivotal in creating the learning and development framework for the organisation, and managing the learning and development function across the organisation. Line managers access and use the framework and its structures to identify appropriate learning and development for themselves and their staff members. Line managers also play a major role in helping those within the organisation learn – by coaching, mentoring, delivering training etc.

Q. How do I work out which learning and development method to use?

Conduct a training needs analysis. Consider the types of skills and knowledge that need to be acquired – this can help you determine whether a work-related learning technique is suitable, or whether off-the-job learning is required. 

For more information, please refer to our information sheet: Methods of learning and development

Q. What is a training needs analysis?

A training needs analysis (TNA) is the first step in the Learning and development process and should be completed following the job analysis and design process.

A TNA is the systematic problem-solving exercise of identifying a gap between the current skills and competencies of the job incumbent compared to the ideal skills and competencies needed for a particular job. Once a gap has been identified, a decision needs to be made as to whether this deficiency can be rectified by training, or if in fact it is something which requires alternative action (for example counselling for underperformance and discipline).

It is essential to correctly identify training needs in order to design, deliver and measure value to the organisation accurately and demonstrate return on investment. 

Three levels of a TNA: 

  1. Organisational: Considers where resources should best be invested in learning and development activities to help achieve organisational strategic goals and objectives. This level of analysis also incorporates things such as an organisation's culture, HR objectives and external influences. 
  2. Task / job level: Considers what specific skills, knowledge and abilities are required to perform particular jobs within the organisation. This is largely related to the workforce planning process as it looks back to the position description and job analysis as a basis for analysing excepted standards of work outputs. 

Individual level: Considers the actual performance of an individual compared against the expected performance standards to analyse whether training is an appropriate solution to address any deficiencies. Common examples of assessing this performance are the performance appraisal, customer feedback and by using the person specification to assess an individual's performance.

Q. How do I conduct a TNA?

The training needs analysis is quite a complex task and should be tailored to the organisational setting, the job which is being performed and the individual who is performing it. As a basic guide to conducting a TNA, HR Mangers should follow these steps: 

  1. Analyse the job
  2. Analyse the person's current skills and knowledge
  3. Decide on the skills/knowledge gaps
  4. Identify training solutions
  5. Evaluate performance after training. After these initial steps have been followed, a training needs analysis template can help assess how training solutions will be delivered. 

For more information, please refer to our template: Training needs analysis.

Q. When do learning and development activities need to be carried out?

Ideally, learning and development should be seen as a continuous activity which is fundamental to achieving continual improvement of individuals and organisations. On a practical level however, the need to train and develop employees is usually triggered by one of the following scenarios: 

  • Employees are new to the organisation and require induction and socialisation. This is sometimes referred to as the "on-boarding process" whereby new recruits become familiar with the organisations cultural norms, expectations, rules and procedures. 
  • Employees changing job roles (e.g. promotions, transfers or secondments) which require different skills, knowledge and abilities to carry out the new job-related tasks. 
  • A change in organisational strategy which dictates the need for new training and development initiatives to align staff skills, knowledge and experience with business goals.
  • As a result of changes to the workforce makeup such as changing demographics and workforce composition and recruitment initiatives which may have long term effects on learning and development needs. 

As a result of new technology or changes in how work is organised to achieve results more efficiently.

Q. Who is responsible for learning and development activities?

Learning and Development is a process which requires shared support and responsibility from a number of sources. Depending on the size and structure of an organisation, the following are usually responsible for the learning and development activities and outcomes within an organisation: 

The organisation: Support at board level for learning and development activities is crucial to the success of any learning and development program and should be tied in with the business’s strategic objectives. Related to this the organisation's vision, culture and willingness to invest (by way of time and financial resources) in the continuous development of staff to better face future challenges and remain competitive. 
 
Line managers: Line managers play a pivotal role in the success of learning and development activities in that they are not only accountability for the performance of their teams, they are in an advantageous position to observe and identify the knowledge, skill and ability gaps of their subordinates better than anyone else. Adding to this, line managers are furthermore able to monitor employees' improvement following learning and development activities. 
 
HR Department: Some larger organisations may have a dedicated Learning and Development team within their overall HR function, however if this is not the case, the HR Manager will be responsible for coordinating learning and development activities. The HR Department is responsible for the effective analysis of training needs, overall design, structure and delivery of training programs as well as demonstrating return on investment of all learning and development activities.

Included in this category are also the training facilitators / instructors themselves. Whether learning and development be offered in-house as a part of a structured organisational development program, or offered out-of-house from a specialist trainer, the impact upon the overall training success largely hinges on how effectively material is communicated. 

For more information, please see our information sheet: Keeping your trainees engaged
 
Employees: Whilst the most obvious participant in learning and development activities within an organisation it is often overlooked just how important an employee's level of commitment to training and development is to the success of such programs. Through promotion by line managers and the HR department, employees should be able to easily identify the benefits training activities will have on their ability to perform their jobs more efficiently in the future.

Aside from the organisational context, employees need to take ownership of learning and development opportunities to better equip themselves with the necessary skills, knowledge and abilities to remain competitive in today's changing business environment and to keep up with those around them if they are to progress career-wise.

As with many HR activities, learning and development is a process of collaboration and cannot be viewed in isolation from all other activities. Who is exactly in the learning and development process will depend on the size of an organisation, particularly on the level of dedicated HR personnel to manage the learning and development function.

Whilst it is quite common for larger organisations to have a dedicated learning and development team within the HR Department, smaller organisations may only have one manager who is responsible for all staff and need to manage the learning and development activities of everyone within their business.

Regardless of size restraints however, in all circumstances the two main roles responsible for learning and development are the direct managers and individual employees.

Q. Do I need to train my long-term employees?

Yes.

Q. What is coaching?

Coaching is a widely used development tool and performance management technique – it can be used for a number of purposes: one-on-one developmental coaching, team coaching, executive coaching and business coaching.

The structure and techniques of coaching may differ based on the manager's personal style; however all techniques will have one unifying feature: the coaching approach will predominantly be facilitated by the coach asking questions and challenging the coachee to learn from his or her own resources.

The coaching process is underpinned by established trust in the coach. This two-way trusting partnership will assist an employee to achieve growth. Coaching utilises the work situation as a learning opportunity. It focuses on developing a person's skills and knowledge to improve job performance.

Coaching is effectively 'learning by doing' under the supervision of an experienced person. By undertaking a task on-the-job and under the direction of the coach, the coachee acquires skills and knowledge required for their job role. 

The coach is generally one of the following: 

  • The coachee's direct line manager or a supervisor with considerable expertise in the relevant field 
  • A dedicated internal coach who may be a line manager or a human resources (HR) specialist
  • An external person specialising in coaching. The selection of the coach will be dependent upon the coaching need.

The coachee is a person who has been identified by the line manager, supervisor or HR practitioner as having a learning need to improve the knowledge or skills required to perform their job. 

For more information please see our sections on coaching and mentoring.

Q. What is mentoring?

Mentoring focuses on helping employees' long-term development and emphasises an individual's career progression. Mentoring involves an experienced, knowledgeable person (the mentor) assisting a lesser experienced person (the mentee) with development in any or all the following areas:

  • Technical skills associated with the practical application of the mentee's proficient expertise in accounting and finance 
  • Personal effectiveness skills which develop the communication, interpersonal and self-management skills required in the workplace
  • Business skills expected of an accounting and financial professional in the business environment  
  • Leadership skills which develop the ethical, governance, planning and decision-making skills required to realise potential as a leader.

A mentor is an experienced person who provides assistance, guidance, advice, encouragement and support to a lesser experienced person (the mentee) as a means of fostering the mentee's professional development. Mentoring relationships can be conducted with the mentee's direct manager, outside the mentee's direct reporting line, or with an experienced professional who is external to the organisation. 

The role of the mentor is to: 

  • Act as a sounding board and provide information 
  • Share knowledge and experiences * challenge the mentee where appropriate
  • Provide the mentee with guidance in relation to their career development. A mentee can be any person – ranging from a graduate recruit to a senior manager – with an identified career development need.

Q. What is the difference between coaching and mentoring?

The main differences between coaching and mentoring are; the goal setting process of each, the type of advice given, the time frames for the relationship to exist and the skills or attributes of the mentor/coach.

Coaching focusses on the acquiring new skills and/or refining performance of specific tasks in the short term. The coach usually sets the goals to be achieved and gives constructive feedback to refine techniques to improve performance. The coach is someone who is able to assist learning of new skills and abilities.

In contrast to this, mentoring focusses on longer term career and capability development of an individual, as opposed to short term skill acquisition. The mentor is normally someone who is highly experienced in the field and can provide insights from personal experience and offers a more comprehensive view in terms of the mentees career progression. Mentees can largely set goals to be achieved and mentors can offer feedback and suggestions.

Q. Are all employees suitable for coaching interventions?

Not necessarily. Some individuals lack self-awareness and emotional intelligence which are essential to successfully participating in coaching activities. As well as this, some learning and development needs are not well suited to coaching, including completing repetitive tasks, and specific specialist skills which require practice and specialisation.

Q. What learning and development needs is coaching suitable for?

  • Management development 
  • Leadership development and grooming for senior positions 
  • Focus is more on the development 
  • Helping technical experts develop better interpersonal or managerial skills 
  • Developing an individual's potential and providing career support 
  • Developing a more strategic perspective after a promotion to a more senior role 
  • Handling conflict situations so that they are resolved effectively

Q. How do I keep track of learning and development activities of my staff?

It is important to keep track of the learning and development activities of your staff. This may be more important in some industries than others (for example, where a training course is necessary to gain accreditation or a licence to do something required by the business – e.g. Responsible Service of Alcohol Licence).

In these circumstances, it will be the businesses responsibility to ensure that all staff are trained and hold the appropriate certificates in order to perform their jobs. Depending on the industry and the certificate/license/training activity required, there may be penalties for non-compliance or failure to keep accurate records. 

As a matter of best practice, records of learning and development activities should reasonably include: 

  • Date of training 
  • Provider of training
  • Evidence of employee attendance at training
  • Any relevant certificates/licenses/evidence obtained; whether the employer paid for the training or not
  • Results (if applicable) of training (e.g. Test scores, assignment results etc.) 
  • Date for renewal or next training course to be attended.

Q. Can you recommend effective ways of keeping records?

  • Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS's). If applicable, recording learning and development activities in an employee file in your organisation's HRIS is usually the most obvious way of recording these activities. HRIS systems are typically linked to the payroll function where learning and development information may be used to calculate higher rates of pay for employees with specific skills (generally relates to award covered employees) 

  • Excel spreadsheets. Whilst not the most technical of recording systems, this is still an effective way of keeping track of learning and development activities within an organisation. Importantly, maintenance of the spread sheet needs to be conducted to ensure accuracy when employees undertake new L+D tasks, and inclusion of all relevant fields (see above) 

  • Keeping physical records of what learning and development activities employees have been involved in.

Q. Why do I need to keep a record of learning and development activities?

It is a good idea to keep a record of learning and development activities for a number of reasons. Firstly, if an organisation is paying for the L&D activities their employees are attending, there will need to some sort of financial reporting and accountability mechanisms put in place.

Records of this nature will also be relevant for evaluation, return of investment and learning and development statistics which will be used by the HR department and senior management. Aside from these, records can be relied upon in performance management processes and disciplinary procedures. It will be particularly beneficial to rely upon specific training being offered to help address a performance issue and where performance has not been improved, considering alternative action which may include termination (depending on the circumstances of course).

Q. Do I have to pay for my staff training? Do I have to give my employees time off to complete training courses?

Generally, if you require a staff member to attend a training course or participate in learning and development activities, you should pay your employees for their time. Where the training can be viewed as a learning opportunity open to employees to attend if they wish and is therefore voluntary (e.g. a product information night to enhance ability to sell a product your business stocks), then this does not usually have to be paid for.

Similarly, where employees wish to complete training, or other self-initiated learning and development activities, it is at the discretion of the employer as to whether or not study leave or other assistance is provided.Any financial or time allowances/assistance provided will of course have likely flow on benefits to the organisation in terms of morale and retention rates.

Should a business wish to address these issues, details should be included in a relevant policy (e.g. Leave Policy including Study Leave) to avoid ambiguity.

Q. We would like all employees who are provided with financial support to complete training or tertiary education to commit to providing a minimum of 12 months continued service to our organisation from the completion of their training. Failure to complete the full 12 months would result in the employee having the value of the training deducted from their final pay. Is this permissible?

You can do that as long as you have the written and signed agreement of each employee concerned and the amount deducted is a reasonable estimate of the costs less the benefit derived during the 12 months. You should also consider the impact of any applicable enterprise agreement or award in respect of deductions from final pay.

Q. What commonly triggers learning and development activities?

  • Employees and/or positions new to the company 

  • A person moving to a new job (within or from outside the company) or gaining new job responsibilities

  • A person (or a group of people) underperforming in their current job  

  • A person wishing to develop competencies to extend their performance in their current job and further develop their career

  • A change event (new strategy, new process, new system etc.)

  • An external influence (e.g. legislative requirement, new competitor, takeover, merger, labour reforms etc.)