Training and Development – A Key HR Function

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Generally, the terms ‘training’ and ‘development’ are used as though they are synonymous. There are differences in the contexts and techniques of employee training and development. Training is the act of increasing the knowledge and skills of an employee for doing a particular job. It imparts specific skills for specific problems. It is mainly job-oriented. Training is given to both old (existing) and new employees throughout their stay in the organisation. In contrast, development includes the process by which managers and executives acquire not only skills and competency in their present jobs but also capacities for future higher managerial/supervisory positions. Development broadens the perspective of managers.

Training and development are closely related to each other because they both concern about increasing the competency (skills) of employees so that they can fully utilise their potential in doing a particular job. There is, however, one important difference between training and development. The aim of training is to impart new skills to the employee. In contrast, the aim of development is to help the employee grow and develop so that he can handle new problems properly and with confidence. The difference between training and development lies in the fact that training is a short-term activity while development is a long-term process. Thus, in training the focus is on changing an employee’s job behaviour, while in development the focus is on changing his whole personality.

Training and development are necessary for any organisation as they help to achieve effective performance of employees. They also provide opportunities for employees to learn how to work with others and enhance their growth within an organisation. Training and development programmes help to improve organisational efficiency by improving the quality of work, by enhancing the motivation and commitment of employees toward their jobs. In short, training and development are essential for effective functioning of any organisation.

Training:

The term ‘training’ means making people learn how to do a particular job or improve the performance level of an employee on a particular job. It involves imparting of knowledge to the employees so that they can work more efficiently and effectively. In other words, training is a process of learning new skills under the supervision of an expert or experienced person in order to perform tasks better.

Training involves giving instructions about how to do a particular job. It also includes imparting of some basic knowledge and skills on a topic. Training programmes are generally designed by experts. These training programmes should be planned in such a way that it stimulates the employees to make them active participants and not passive listeners. In other words, training should aim at enhancing the knowledge and skills of an individual so that he become better able to handle his job efficiently and effectively.

Training can take place on-the-job or off-the-job. On-the-job training is training which occurs on the actual job itself while working with experienced employees. In contrast, off-the-job training takes place away from the normal work site while attending seminars or workshops where trained instructors provide instructions and demonstrations to the trainee in order to impart new skills.

Training can be classified into different types depending upon their objectives and contents. For example, training may be job oriented or non-job oriented, formal or informal etc. Job oriented training aims at increasing the knowledge and skills of an individual for doing a particular job better. In other words, it is designed to improve the performance level of an employee on a particular job. On the other hand, non-job oriented or general training is imparted in order to improve an individual’s overall performance level. For example, it can be imparting of general knowledge of how to work effectively with others, how to handle stress management etc.

Training programmes may be designed for trainees at different levels. For example, training programmes may be designed for the trainees of entry level employees or probationers to impart basic skills and improve their performance level on a particular job. Besides, new schemes started in an organisation may require specialised training for its employees to enable them to handle that scheme effectively and efficiently. Similarly, new technology developed in an organisation may require specialised training for its employees to handle that technology effectively and efficiently.

Training programmes can be designed on the following lines:

a) Training in Job Instruction Methods

It is a kind of training programme which takes place on-the-job or off-the job. It aims at imparting knowledge about how to design and conduct on-the-job training programmes. It includes the knowledge of different methods and techniques of training such as practice teaching, demonstrations etc.

Training in Job Instruction Methods aims at developing an effective teacher or trainer. To be effective, a teacher must know how to design a lesson plan that will have maximum impact on students. Thus, Job Instruction Training teaches the trainee how to plan, develop and evaluate lesson plans.

Training in Job Instruction Methods also teaches the trainees about different instructional techniques such as demonstrations, practice teaching, group activities, suggesting alternatives etc., which can be effectively used at a workplace. The aim of this type of training is to make people good trainers so that they can improve the performance level of their trainees by using different instructional techniques in a better way.

Training in Job Instruction Methods is very important for all those who want to become effective teachers or trainers. It enables an individual to understand the learning process through practice teaching and demonstration. Besides, it helps an individual to analyse strengths and weaknesses of learners so that they can be able to focus upon the weak areas of learners and design appropriate instructional techniques to overcome their weaknesses.

Training in Job Instruction Methods is particularly useful for those people who are involved in designing training programmes, teaching or developing staff etc. For these types of people, this type of training provides them with a better understanding of how to make others more effective on their jobs and how to improve instructional techniques.

Training in Job Instruction Methods also trains the trainees to handle problems faced by trainees while learning new skills and imparting their knowledge effectively. Thus, it is an effective training programme for making a person good at his job as well as effective trainer.

Because Job Instruction Training takes place on-the-job or off-the-job, it is also known as On-the-Job Training (OJT) or Off-the Job Training (OJT).

b) Advanced On the Job Training

Advanced On-the -Job Training takes place on the job to impart any additional training in order to make an individual more effective. Advanced On-the -Job Training is given to those employees who are already undergoing Job Instruction Training. In case of formal training programmes, Advanced On-the -Job Training can be given as a post-training course for making the trainees more effective and efficient.

Advanced On-the -Job Training mainly aims at developing an individual’s problem solving and decision making capabilities so that he is able to resolve problems of his own and make effective decisions even without the help of superiors. The aim is to develop an individual’s critical thinking ability by providing him with a better understanding of his job tasks through Advanced On-the -Job Training.

Advanced On-the -Job Training enables the trainees to increase their efficiency and effectiveness at the workplace. It improves the morale of trainees because they feel that they are being trained to cope up with job tasks. Advanced On-the -Job Training motivates an individual to become more efficient in order to avoid criticism from superiors, which in turn makes him a motivated employee.

c) Supervisory Development Training

Supervisory Development Training imparts additional knowledge, skills and values to an individual so that he is able to perform his job more effectively. It enables a person to handle his subordinates in a healthy atmosphere and helps him to develop sound supervisory skills.

This type of training also includes on-the -job training for supervisors since so many new situations arise on the job which need to be handled by a supervisor. Thus, Supervisory Development training is an important activity for all supervisors in order to make them effective and efficient.

Supervisory Development Training can be given as formal or non-formal training programme depending upon the needs of different organisations. It is mainly aimed at making individuals more competent so that they are able to handle their subordinates effectively. Besides, it improves the relationship between a manager and his employees.

Supervisory Development Training enables an individual to become a good supervisor and develop effective supervisory skills.

 

Re-training Programmes

Re-training programmes enable individuals to learn new skills in order to remain suitable with the changing economic and technological circumstances. It helps individuals to develop new skills or update his old ones in terms of technical as well as managerial skills.

Re-training programmes are implemented in organisations which need an employee with certain specific job-related skills and knowledge even if they do not suit the changing conditions of employment market, such as a growing organisation facing shortage of skilled employees and need of training its existing employees to cope up with its new requirements.

Re-training programmes develop certain specific skills in an individual so that he can remain suitable for his job even if the economic and technological circumstances change. Re-training programmes are more like ongoing processes which enable individuals to upgrade their knowledge, skill and competence throughout their working life, which in turn enables them to adjust with the changing technological and economic situation.

Reskilling is very much similar to re-training programme except that the former aims at developing a wider range of skills by imparting on-the -job training in addition to classroom instruction. In case of reskilling programmes, the employees are already undergoing some training programmes and the new ones are added as per the requirements.

Also, reskilling aims at developing a higher level of skills with the help of on-the -job training. This is because employees learn more by performing certain job duties under direct supervision of experts in addition to classroom instruction.

Identification of training needs:

The training needs of an individual are identified by assessing the job description and the terms and conditions of employment, which also include the position levels required for a particular job. It is necessary to identify whether there is any need to train certain employees on some basic skills or give them on-the -job training in order to make them more suitable with their job and help them to perform their work effectively.

The training needs are identified by the line or operational managers, who are supposed to know the job requirements of their employees and identify the skills needed for a particular job. An organisation should have a procedure through which the training needs of its employees are assessed periodically so that it can be assured about making efficient use of the training opportunities.

Training needs analysis:

The training needs of an individual can be analysed by identifying his strengths, weaknesses and knowledge gaps through a performance appraisal interview or feedback regarding certain job-related areas. Another way to analyse the training needs is through employee surveys in which employees are asked about their views on particular job- related issues. These are the two primary methods to assess training needs and they help to determine what skills and knowledge are required for a particular job.

Besides, certain other factors which affect the assessment of training needs include:

Need analysis methodology:

Before implementing any new training programme in an organisation, it is necessary to assess the requirement for that particular programme in terms of need and its relevance. There are certain techniques available through which the training needs and requirements of an organisation can be assessed, such as job analysis, performance appraisal interviews and questionnaires.

Training needs assessment helps an organisation to identify if there is any need to train its employees or give them on-the -job training or not.

It is beneficial in making an organisation aware of the need for job-related training and taking measures to fill the identified gaps in terms of skill or knowledge by providing training opportunities to its employees.

Training needs assessment also helps an organisation to avoid underutilisation of the available resources as it includes identification of any artificial barriers which block training opportunities for the employees.

Training needs assessment is beneficial in making an organisation aware of the need for job-related training and taking measures to fill the identified gaps in terms of skill or knowledge by providing training opportunities to its employees.

It is also helpful in avoiding underutilisation of resources as it includes identification of any artificial barriers which block training opportunities for the employees.

The major advantage of implementing training needs assessment is that it helps an organisation to enhance its productivity and provide a higher level of skills to its employees. It also helps in reducing the cost of production by removing bottlenecks and providing higher level of group output.

Job Analysis:

Job analysis includes the identification of the duties, skills and standards which are required while performing a particular job. It can be done by either asking direct questions to employees regarding their jobs or through written questionnaires or through observations. The information derived from these sources is then used to develop suitable training programmes as well as for other purposes like developing psychometric tests and designing performance rating systems. Job analysis helps an organisation to know the requirements of a particular job by identifying the specific tasks which must be performed in order to accomplish that job effectively. It is particularly beneficial for new jobs so that employees can understand what are their expected roles and responsibilities.

Training needs assessment is highly dependent upon job analysis as it provides the basic information to assess the training needs. It also aids in accurate determination of what skills and knowledge are required at various levels of performance.

Competency-based Training Needs Analysis:

Training needs analysis is a process used to identify the deficiencies, skill gaps and competencies that need to be addressed to improve performance. Competency-based approach is used to design a training programme by identifying the core competencies required for a job and then relating these competencies to specific knowledge, skills and abilities. There are different approaches available in order to assess the training needs of an organisation such as process analysis, skill-based approach, knowledge-based approach and job-based approach. From the above approaches, competency-based approach is considered as the most important and effective way to assess training needs. It gives a thorough analysis of how job tasks are performed by mapping out various competencies required for successful completion of each task.

Performance Appraisal:

Performance appraisal interview or questionnaire includes questioning an employee regarding his job and work performance. The information derived from this source helps an organisation in assessing the effectiveness of training programmes along with other aspects like appraisal system, work environment, rewards and recognition system etc.

Training needs assessment is highly dependent upon performance appraisal as it provides feedback about how employees perceive their jobs to perform effectively. It also gives information about how employees perceive their jobs to be performed and what are the factors which affect job performance.

Work Environment:

Training needs assessment is also dependent on work environment as it helps an organisation to identify various aspects like communication, team interaction, employee autonomy and other human-related factors that influence training requirements. It can be done by asking direct questions to employees asking about their views related to various factors like communication is effective, teamwork is good etc. or by observing the current environment and comparing it with the desired one so that these differences can be rectified.

Training needs assessment is an ongoing process which must be conducted at regular intervals of time in order to ensure its effectiveness. Some organisations have been of the view that training needs assessment is a time consuming process which consumes and distracts attention from other important tasks like job design, performance appraisal etc. However, it is suggested that it should be effectively used for making appropriate changes to improve work environment as well as employees’ skills.

It helps an organisation in future planning by developing realistic plans and creating opportunities for employees to grow, develop and perform at their best.

List of training needs assessment models available in market:

The approaches used by various employers differ from each other based on the type of industry and job role as well as the availability of time and resources. For example; In a large multinational company with thousands of employees, all the employees can be assessed at one go, but in a small organisation with less number of employees, it becomes difficult to assess all the employees together.

Simplified approaches are used by employers when they do not have enough time and resources for conducting a detailed training needs analysis. In order to conduct effective training needs assessment process, it is important for an organisation to collect relevant information from every source which can help in identifying training needs effectively.

The trained employees can be asked to play a vital role in the assessment process of their co-workers as they already are aware about various job responsibilities and tasks performed by other employees. In this way, it is possible to get reliable information about how various jobs are performed to assess competencies required for business success.

Training needs assessment is beneficial in the sense that an organisation can be able to identify employees’ training requirements and design appropriate training programmes accordingly, but it requires huge amount of time and effort which may not be possible for every organisation.

Also, the benefits of effective training needs analysis are not visible in the short-term period, but it will result in cost and time savings for an organisation in the long run.

Identification of training needs involves defining a job description and examining which individual skills are required to perform the job effectively so that these skills can be trained separately which will improve performance.

Training needs analysis is helpful as it helps an organisation to identify training requirements of employees and prepare various training programmes accordingly for delivering effective learning content.

In order to determine the effectiveness of a training programme, it must be measured in terms of improvements in performance along with increasing goodwill among the ranks as well as improve employee morale.

As defined by American Society for Training and Development (ASTD), learning is the “action of acquiring knowledge that results in both behavioral and cognitive change.” ASTD continues to hypothesize that learning occurs when there is a significant difference between what the learner already knows or believes and what the trainer wants him to know or do. The desire for learners to gain new knowledge, skills, and abilities which help them to succeed at their job and improve in terms of effectiveness and efficiency is known as the ‘need for learning’.

Training needs assessment is conducted by trained professionals who use their knowledge and experience along with scientific approach to analyse available information on various factors like work environment, training programmes etc. Training needs analysis can also be carried out by supervisors who are already aware of the job roles performed by each employee in their area. They are well aware about various training requirements of employees and how they can contribute to business success. However, supervisors are not able to analyse information from a scientific approach like trained professionals do which may result in an inaccurate assessment of training needs. Therefore, it is recommended that assessment process should be carried out by professional experts in the field of training and development.

In order to carry out effective training needs analysis, an organisation must define various job roles so that each role is unique from others which can help in identifying employees’ skills separately. The main purpose of defining a job description is to develop specific skills required for each position within an organization. For example, job roles like ‘store manager’ and ‘stock assistant’ are unique from one another. Job description of a store manager includes various skills which are required to operate a retail store such as communication, planning and organising etc., however the job description of a stock assistant mentions different skills such as taking instructions accurately, performing simple mathematical calculations etc.

Characteristics of a good training programme

The characteristics of a good training programme are that it must be planned – the objectives must be clear; there must be commitment for implementation and all aspects of the plan should show follow-up. There must also be co-operation between the management, workers and other departments in order to achieve expected results. The design for a training programme should cover all aspects of the problem.

The objectives of a training programme may be short-term and long-term, however secondary objectives should not distract from the main ones, as this can cause confusion. A good training programme targets only those people who need to improve or acquire new skills – it is important that they are competent enough to perform the tasks themselves, and that it is cost-effective.

The training should be delivered to the right people at the right time, in the right way – not all employees are ready to receive a certain level of training and care must be taken when selecting those who will participate. Training should be provided on-the-job as well as off-the-job, as well as in classrooms.

Training should usually be on a one-to-one basis, however group training has its place and can also enhance communication between employees who might not otherwise work together. Training is often delivered by external trainers but this can lead to inconsistency – therefore training at all levels of the company must be included and responsibility for delivering it must be identified.

The characteristics of a good training programme are that it must be planned – the objectives must be clear; there must be commitment for implementation and all aspects of the plan should show follow-up. There must also be co-operation between the management, workers and other departments in order to achieve expected results. The design for a training programme should cover all aspects of the problem.

The objectives of a training programme may be short-term and long-term, however secondary objectives should not distract from the main ones, as this can cause confusion. A good training programme targets only those people who need to improve or acquire new skills – it is important that they are competent enough to perform the tasks themselves, and that it is cost-effective.

The training should be delivered to the right people at the right time, in the right way – not all employees are ready to receive a certain level of training and care must be taken when selecting those who will participate. Training should be provided on-the-job as well as off-the-job, as well as in classrooms.

Training should usually be on a one-to-one basis, however group training has its place and can also enhance communication between employees who might not otherwise work together. Training is often delivered by external trainers but this can lead to inconsistency – therefore training at all levels of the company must be included and responsibility for delivering it must be identified.

Training and development methods

It is important to choose the right training and development method – these can include: lectures, seminars, case studies, role play, simulation exercises, internal courses or external programmes. The timing of a programme is also crucial – there should be planning before commencement to allow sufficient time for the training of employees. The budget for a training programme should be set at the start, and participants should be informed about its existence – they are more likely to attend if they know their employer is committed to it.

Training is often delivered by external trainers but this can lead to inconsistency – therefore training at all levels of the company must be included and responsibility for delivering it must be identified.

Training is an ongoing process with a priority of continual improvement – the programme should outline specific problems in order to demonstrate progress towards achieving its objectives. The training should be given frequently, as well as on request and not just when new employees start their job.

The training programme should allow flexibility in terms of timings, places and techniques used – these should take into account the specific needs of participants. The training programme should be constantly monitored in order to see whether objectives have been met, including determining whether or not there are any gaps or other omissions that need to be addressed.

 

Designing the training programme

The planning process should start with the identification of a problem and then the investigation of ways to solve it by conducting research, analysis and in-depth interviews.

After analysing the data collected, information about each potential solution must be gathered – this can include costings, schedules for implementation and resources that will be needed. The management team should review all the information and make any necessary changes to it, as well as create a timetable for implementation.

This design should then be shared with other parties involved in the process: employees, external consultants or trainers, alongside representatives from other departments such as human resources and finance. The training programme can then be drawn up which takes into account previous research and findings.

Implementation of the training programme

Implementation depends on the complexity and length of a training programme. The way it is implemented will also depend on whether or not participants have attended training programmes before – it might be necessary, for example, to provide more in-depth analysis for those who have been trained previously.

Training should start with an introduction and an explanation of the specific programme, followed by a commitment from each participant – this should be considered as part of the training process itself.

Afterwards, pre-training activities should be implemented before any theoretical lessons are presented – these can include behavioural exercises based around teamwork and problem solving. The proceedings should then move on to cover different theories which can include lecture, role play or interactive sessions.

Training courses should be kept simple and training materials should be created – these can also be used independently by employees on an ongoing basis. These materials should contain a combination of revision notes, activities that can be carried out alone and tasks which require teamwork in order to achieve success.

There are a number of criteria that will determine the success of a training programme – these include the satisfaction of participants, whether or not it was executed correctly and the extent to which learning objectives were met.

 

Follow up activities

There should be regular follow up activities carried out in order to evaluate training programmes objectively and improve upon them – this can also enable managers to contact previous participants to find out how they feel about the training programme.

The main areas that should be taken into account include:

These follow up activities can also include surveys, interviews and focus groups with participants or an analysis of previous performance in order to track progress.

 

Reviews

A review is “an evaluation or appraisal” which enables organisations to assess how well a training programme is working – it can also help to identify areas that need to be improved or additional objectives that have been added.

These reviews should take place periodically and include an analysis of employee performance, the number of sessions attended and any feedback given by participants. Similarly, if there are specific objectives involved in a review these should also be implemented…

There are four main types of communications: internal, external, multiple and mass.

Internal communications are those which take place within an organisation – this can include information such as the members of a new board or details about employee benefits. External communication is any messages that are published for suppliers or clients in order to promote a product or service.

Multiple-channel communications are ones that use a number of different methods to communicate with an audience, such as using different media or performing in front of large audiences. Mass communication is designed to reach a large audience quickly and efficiently – although this comes at the cost of reduced control over the message and flexibility.

There are two main types of communications: verbal and non-verbal.

Verbal communication is any form of conversation which allows ideas to be exchanged – this can include engaging in discussions, lectures or presentations with a large audience. Non-verbal communication takes place without speaking, for example when someone’s body language conveys certain moods such as enthusiasm, excitement or boredom.

Verbal communication is generally believed to be more effective than non-verbal, although the former can also influence how others interpret emotions and feelings.

Convergence Theory in Communication and Media is an argument which suggests that due to new technologies such as radio, television and the internet people are becoming increasingly similar – this challenges previous ideas about how people act and believe in a particular way.

The argument suggests that these new technologies are leading to convergence, which means that the different ways people interact with each other are gradually becoming more similar – this homogenisation of attitudes can be seen through topics such as reality TV shows, celebrity culture and political discourse.

Similarly, although there have previously been concerns that the use of new technologies could cause people to rely on them instead of their family, friends and colleagues, Convergence Theory suggests this is in fact happening less frequently.

Convergence Theory is an argument which challenges previous beliefs about how the audience will react to particular types of media or messages – it suggests that audiences do not act as predicted, but instead their behaviour is based on how they perceive the message rather than the message itself.

For example, previous arguments suggested that messages containing humour would not be perceived as believable, and therefore audiences would not react positively to them.

However, Convergence Theory suggests that due to changes in society and technological advances this may no longer be the case – humour may actually improve the credibility of a message in certain situations.

Integration of training and development areas

Human resource management involves a range of different departments including recruitment, training and development. This has led to a degree of integration between all of these areas – overall this is seen as beneficial because it means that the objectives undertaken by each area are aligned with those in other departments.

Staff motivation: Staff need to be motivated so that they carry out their duties effectively – this can be related to their individual performance or larger organisational goals. A lack of motivation could lead to low employee morale, absenteeism, staff turnover and high labour costs.

Integrated training and development is a way of managing a company’s resources in order for them to provide the most benefit to the organisation over a long period of time. This can be done by having a close relationship between the training and development areas and human resource management – this is because improving coaching skills, raising performance standards or increasing skill levels amongst staff will generally benefit the company over a long period of time.

Integrated training and development has been criticised for focusing too much on long-term goals at the expense of short-term ones. It has also been argued that the focus on achieving goals can result in companies ignoring personal development needs related to staff well-being and stress levels.

Other criticisms have included claims that it is difficult for training and development areas to have a significant impact in the long term, especially if there are insufficient resources available.

In addition, critics have argued that integrated training and development is not relevant for companies in the public sector – this is because they often face external pressure from government departments to prove their effectiveness.

Overall, arguments in favour of integrated training and development tend to focus on its ability to improve efficiency over a long period of time.

Management performance appraisal: Performance appraisal is the process of evaluating an individual’s performance in order to help them improve their skills and abilities. Once a person has been assessed, this information can be used by managers to decide whether they should retain or terminate their employment.

Performance Appraisal and Development: Management training raises staff productivity and improves organisational effectiveness – it can also lead to an increased focus on staff development and improved morale.

The improvements that take place as a result of training often depend on the type of appraisal procedure used in a company. Many organisations use ‘forced distribution’ or ‘bell curve’ systems when assessing their employees, because they are seen to be the most accurate way of measuring performance. However, in recent years other appraisal procedures such as the ‘multitrait multimethod matrix’ have become increasingly popular.

Forced distribution systems involve analysing the performance of an employee by looking at their overall results – they tend to be particularly useful for identifying specific strengths and weaknesses. In addition, these systems are widely regarded as being quick and effective when compared to other appraisal systems.

The main disadvantage of forced distribution systems is that they do not take into account the personal differences between employees – this means that some people may be unfairly treated during performance appraisals.

Bell curve appraisal systems are seen as being quick, effective, and objective – they also allow management to identify any weaknesses an employee may have. The main disadvantage of these systems is that they are seen as being ‘unfair’ – this is because some staff members may be judged more harshly than others.

Multitrait multitask appraisal systems focus on assessing a person’s performance in a number of different ways, based on various sources of information. These are widely regarded as being the best way of ensuring that performance assessments are fair, objective and accurate. The main disadvantage of these systems is that they take longer to complete than other appraisal systems – this is because multiple sources of information must be collected before an employee’s actual performance can be assessed.

Training effectiveness: Training effectiveness refers to the extent to which people learn a set of skills or knowledge during a training session or programme. Effective learning can be measured by looking at how many employees manage to retain the skills they have learned when they leave a training programme – this enables employers to see exactly how much their staff members have progressed since attending a course or seminar.

Trainee motivation: Trainee motivation refers to the extent to which an employee is enthusiastic about attending a training programme – it also refers to the degree of effort that an employee exerts in order to learn new skills. The extent to which trainee motivation influences learning depends on the type of training programme being used by an organisation.

Operational effectiveness: Operational effectiveness has been defined as ‘the ability to function effectively according to specifications and standards’ – it has also been described as ‘doing the right things in the right way, at the right time’. Operational effectiveness can be measured on an individual or team basis.

Operational effectiveness is often used to determine how successful a company’s employees are. In order to measure operational effectiveness, various factors must be taken into account – these include:

The effectiveness of training programmes is often dependent on the ability of a trainer to deliver an effective presentation. The following are some factors that can be used to increase the power and impact of presentations:

Covering all relevant aspects while still keeping focused on the main topic is important in any meeting or group discussion. As a general rule, the more people in a group discussion or meeting, the longer it will take. Group discussions are often difficult to lead.

A scientific study into workplace meetings concluded that: “There is an inverse relationship between the number of participants and length of time until a decision is made.” The results show that as group size increases from 2 to 4, a meeting will last only half as long (15 minutes compared to 33 minutes). Furthermore, the same study indicates that group size has an inverse relationship with meeting time.

Consider dividing larger groups into smaller sub-groups and running parallel meetings. It is also important to emphasize the quality of discussion above its quantity – this means ensuring that everybody in a discussion, especially the leader, is familiar with the subject beforehand.

It is important to give each individual ample opportunity to speak and be heard. You need not hold an auction or let everybody speak at once, but you should encourage everyone present (especially those who are usually silent) to participate in the discussion. A highly vocal minority may stop a decision from being made or may produce an inferior choice; they can be listened to, but it is important that the majority of the group should be allowed their turn. Allowing everyone to express his opinion does not mean deciding by vote, poll or other such method.

During meetings and group discussions, you need to keep all participants on topic. This requires attentive listening and a great deal of patience, but there are ways to maximize results during meetings. Be respectful, be silent when others are speaking and encourage others to contribute by using open questions.