Improving quality through effective training

Very often when people talk about managing quality, at one point they start talking about training. However, that is not because clause 6.2.2 from ISO 9001 refers to competencies and training, relating it to quality of products and services. This is because the clause is logical – in order to produce a quality product/service, you need people who are competent to conduct the required activities.

That means we need to train people; however, just training people in your organization won’t do the trick. Most of us know that, because simply, in one way or another, we have tried that approach. So what is it that you need to know to make training effective and to contribute to quality in your organization?

Managing the training

The answer to the question is to implement a simple, but comprehensive approach for managing the training in your organization. For that purpose you need to analyze the competencies and abilities of your employees. Based on this analysis, and taking into consideration the strategic plan of your organization, you should identify what competencies you need to realize your strategic goals. After that, you should identify how you can acquire those competencies, provide resources for the training, and at the end, evaluate the training. The training management can be realized through three steps as presented below:

Training management

Define training needs

In order to define the training needs of your company, you need to have in mind your strategic goals: where you want your company to be in a few years, and how you plan to get there (e.g., new products/services, new location, increased number of employees, etc.), as well as your quality objectives and continual improvement initiatives. See also: How to Write Good Quality Objectives.

At the same time you need to know the current competencies of your employees, so you can identify the gap in the existing and required competencies and define which employees need which competencies. In order to be able to effectively identify the competence gap, you have to have various types of information available (preferably in written form). As an input for defining training needs, you can use:

  • Employees’ performance appraisals and employees’ requests for training
  • Specific requirements for individual certifications
  • Analysis of customer complaints, corrective actions and non-conformities, market research
  • Legislative requirements, etc.

The result from this step is an identified competence gap related to the training needs. It is good practice to use this result as an input for your strategic planning meeting and the management review.

Plan the training

The training should be planned based on the identified training needs and the competence gap. Training can be internal or external, through official education, training courses, workshops, on-the-job training, self-learning, online courses, etc. When planning the training, the required resources and constraints should be identified, as well as the criteria for evaluation of the outcome of the training.

See also: Using Competence, Training and Awareness to Replace Documentation in your QMS.

Training requires resources, finances, time, and people. All of this should be taken into account when planning the training. A common mistake is that people neglect to take into consideration that for internal training, although you don’t need to pay a training provider, you have to give the employees time to perform the self-study, or in the case of on-the-job training, time for the mentors to guide the trainees.

The main thing to keep in mind when you plan the training is that it’s not enough just to send employees to be trained. You need to know – and they need to be shown – the bigger picture: why are they getting such training, where will their competencies fit, how will they contribute to the organization’s goals with the new competencies, what is expected of them, etc. Simply put, you need to communicate the training goal with the trainees in order to achieve better results from the training.

Evaluate the training

In the end, the most important and most neglected activity is the evaluation of the outcomes of the training. The main goal of the evaluation is to determine whether the organizational and training goals have been achieved.

Evaluation provides lots of information, but most important is whether you have reached your goal – whether you closed the competence gap and achieved the quality objectives. There are two types of evaluation: short and long term. For the real effects of the training to be evaluated, you need some time distance so you can assess if the employee is using the new learned skills and if those skills are making any difference in your organization. For example, short-term evaluation can give you input about the competence gap. You can easily calculate how many employees have participated in an ISO 9001 Implementation course, and how many of them have passed the exam, and hence have the required competencies for implementation of ISO 9001. However, only long-term evaluation can give you input about the effectiveness of the training in relation to your goal – to implement ISO 9001 in your organization. After some time you will be able to check the progress of implementation of ISO 9001 in your company, and see the concrete results created by the trained employees, and you will know how effective the training was.

Evaluation also offers information about the quality of the training itself and the training provider – was the training good; should we send more people to this training, self-study or on-the-job training; was it effective; if yes, should we reproduce it; if not, why not; etc.

Why to manage training

One way to improve quality in your organization is to manage the training of your employees – making random training decisions in some cases may be worse for your organization than having no training at all.

And, at the end, your investment in training might create ROI (Return on Investment) much greater than anything else – so don’t neglect it.

See a preview of this  Training Program to get a feeling on how to document the trainings you plan to implement.