Meeting learning needs
The particular methods you choose to meet the training needs of teams and individuals will depend upon how people prefer to learn, the number of people who need training and your budget.
Think about any special needs people may have and how to support them, so that your training is equally accessible to all who need it.
We did a lot of work this year around increasing our commitment to equality and diversity - making sure all our venues (internal and external) are fully accessible, asking clearer questions around dietary requirements, and arranging dates so they don’t fall on religious or school holidays.Emma Marshall
HR Business Partner, United Response
The main methods of training open to organisations and individuals are:
- In-house courses
- External training courses
- Conferences and events
- National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs)
- Action Learning
- E-learning/blended learning
- Books and journals
Developing a course to be run on your premises and tailored to the needs of your staff and volunteers. Useful if the training need is widespread across the organisation or is quite specific to your needs, for example training on a new system or process.
You might commission an external trainer to develop and deliver the course, or ask someone with relevant expertise within the organisation to deliver the training. If the latter, you might need to ask whether there is a need for some “train the trainer” training to ensure that they can communicate their knowledge effectively.
Attending external training courses has the advantage of allowing you to network and learn from people in other organisations.
This networking element is one of the reasons classroom based training remains so popular.
External training can be expensive, but there are many courses available that are priced at affordable levels for voluntary organisations, sometimes on a sliding scale. Good starting points for information on local training are local infrastructure organisations.
The NAVCA website can provide access to these organisations.
Conferences and events
Conferences are ideal for getting up to date with developments and for networking and learning from others.
National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs)
Work-based qualifications. They are assessed by providing evidence of competence, based on the relevant National Occupational Standards (NOS).
As a development tool, they can help you to reflect in detail on every aspect of your job, celebrating what you do well, and identifying improvements. NVQs are available at different levels, from entry level qualifications through to senior management.
In some sectors, such as social care, NVQ level 2 qualifications are mandatory. For paid staff who don’t already have a level 2 qualification, funded training may be available through the Business Link Leadership and Management Advisory Service.
Coaching consists of a series of structured one-to-one meetings focused on improving an individual’s skills and performance, usually for the current job.
Coaches seek to bring an objective perspective to a structured dialogue to help an individual find solutions to issues they are facing.
Sometimes coaches are hired from outside the organisation, but increasingly organisations expect all line managers to operate as coaches, which may indicate a training need at line management level. For more information see our coaching and mentoring section.
Typically, mentors will be experienced managers (but not individuals’ line managers) who regularly meet more junior colleagues to help them perform better and develop them for career advancement.
For more senior managers, outside mentors may sometimes be hired. In the voluntary sector, organisations such as ACEVO operate schemes to put senior staff in touch with suitable mentors.
Shadowing involves spending a short period of time with someone in a different job – either within your own organisation or externally.
This might include sitting in on meetings, observing how day to day tasks are done.
Shadowing can be useful as part of an induction when you shadow more experienced staff. It can also be used as a development opportunity where both parties can learn from each other, as being shadowed can help you review the ways in which you habitually work.
A secondment allows an individual to take on a different role in a different part of the organisation (or in another organisation) for a set period of time – usually a few months.
This might be a full time secondment from your existing job, or part time while you retain some of your existing responsibilities.
These opportunities can be valuable in helping an individual learn about different ways of doing things.
Action Learning is a form of learning by doing.
It involves working in small groups of around six to eight people meeting on a regular basis, working through real problems with the support of the group.
Drawing on the skills of listening and questioning, this method helps you to reach solutions and commit to taking action. More information is available from Action Learning Matters.
E-learning is increasingly being used to supplement traditional courses.
With the developments in technology, structured E-learning is becoming more sophisticated and can be tailored to individual and small groups of learners. It can be used to provide large groups of people with the same material whilst still allow individuals to learn in their own time.
Books and journals
Sometimes the learning need can be met simply by reading a suitable book or buying an appropriate toolkit.
Where the need is to keep up to date with current developments, a journal subscription and allowing time for reading as part of the working week can be a simple and effective way to keep learning current.