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Sam Rees-Adams: The importance of training plans

Getting the most out of a training plan depends on getting the basics right.

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Have you written yours yet?  Does the mere thought of it bring you out in a cold sweat? Could you sum up in one sentence why it’s important?

Considering we are in the planning business, there is a lot of nervousness and scepticism when it comes to training plans. As is the modern way, I turned first to the internet when thinking about this article. Ten minutes of browsing clarified two things in my mind:

  • There’s an awful lot of nonsense written about training plans (not wishing to add to that, obviously)
  • It’s not rocket science

Trying to get to the heart of the matter, I realised that a lot of the problem is to do with terminology.  Does it really matter whether you call your plan a training plan, a development plan, a learning plan or anything else?

I found entire articles that focused on using roman numerals, bullet points, sub-headings to structure your plan. Without wishing to be harsh, doesn’t that miss the point entirely?

It’s not about what it looks like; it’s about what’s in it. To paraphrase Bill Clinton, it’s the content, stupid.

Which brings me to my second point: it really isn’t rocket science. Much of the time, things are made far more complex than they need to be. Dressing things up in fancy terminology is merely a distraction – granted, a fairly effective one in many cases – because ultimately, training plans are very simple. What do you want to do better? How are you going to do it? How will you know when you’ve achieved it?

The starting point has to be a very clear understanding of why you want a training plan. What are you hoping to achieve from having one?

If you can’t articulate that clearly to someone who knows nothing about your business then I would suggest that you aren’t ready to put one together. Oh, and ‘because I need to meet FCA requirements’ is not reason enough! When you can sum up in one sentence what difference you want training to make to your business, you’re on the starting blocks.

For small and micro businesses, I think there are added challenges when it comes to developing effective training plans. Not in putting the plans together – that’s the bit that’s not rocket science – but more about accessing resources and solutions that can help you meet the training need.

I read a lot about work shadowing and mentoring, talking to colleagues about their experiences and using other departments to deliver targeted training sessions. All good stuff, but when it’s just you and maybe one or two others, it’s not especially helpful. Following the one other person in your firm round the office all day is more likely to cause a workplace incident than help you meet your training goals.

This is where professional networks can play a role – IFP branch meetings, social media forums and informal networks you may have built up through meeting people at events.

These can give you access to the sort of opportunities and collaboration that larger companies can offer in-house.

One pearl of wisdom I did take from my internet browsing was to approach your training plan in the same way you would if you were writing a business proposal or a presentation.

Forget the fancy terminology and simply ask yourself this: what do I want to do better or differently and how can training help?  Get that right and the rest is easy.

Sam Rees-Adams is professional standards director at the Institute of Financial Planning

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