It’s alive… Using a training plan as a living document

If you look into the heart of the Development Zone, and you’ll find two key items – a Training and Competence (T&C) Plan, and a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Record.  If you’ve read any of the eLearning blogs here over the last few years, you’ll be familiar with the importance of CPD records, and the valuable contributions that they make towards staff development and providing evidence of how they are meeting both regulatory and professional requirements.  You may not, however, have paid so much attention to T&C Plans.  After all, they’re just lists of things to do – right?

Partly.  They certainly can be used as lists of tasks to be completed, but they can also be so much more than that.

Many firms use the T&C Plan as a starting point for their annual appraisal and review processes, and track staff performance against a list of pre-set activities covering the main topics that are needed to demonstrate compliance with the requirements of the IDD.  Let’s use the example of the IDD and consider the two most popular approaches.

The first approach is to simply assign the IDD pathway to learners, with a couple of firm or product specific topics to provide the coverage needed, and to use the T&C plan as a static checklist.  Often, firms taking this approach will assign all of the activities a single deadline (normally just before the end of their business year).  Typically, these activities will be monitored via Progress Monitor reports, with the expectation that all items on T&C Plans are shown in green at the end of the year, ready for the plan to be reset and new activities set for the following year. 

Whilst this approach has a number of benefits to the trainer, by reducing the amount of information recorded in the T&C Plan, it makes it harder to see progress during the year, and can be demotivating for some learners – for example, where large pathways are used, it will take a longer time for progress (green items) to appear in T&C Plans.  When used in this way, learners often perceive their T&C plans as being “owned” by their managers or training team, and don’t feel comfortable adding topics to them during the year.

The second approach uses the T&C plan as a tool to support regular reviews and discussions with line managers.  The same content is added to the plans by managers, but in a slightly different format.  Rather than assigning a complex topic such as the IDD pathway as a single item, individual components (or smaller pathways) are added to the plan with deadlines spaced across the year. 

As with the previous example, progress can be monitored via Progress Monitor reports, but with the added benefit of being able to see steady progress during the year rather than the typical “bursts” of progress with the previous approach.  This enables line managers – and training teams – to respond to problems much more quickly, and easily identify areas that require additional support or are particularly well understood.  It also enables managers to identify “learning champions” for core topics – those individuals with a strong understanding of the topic who may be able to mentor others in their team that are struggling with key concepts.

Empowering learners by providing targeted support and encouraging sharing of experience and understanding often leads to learners wanting to expand their own knowledge and skills and explore new topics.  By being able to demonstrate their understanding of core (required) topics through their T&C plan, they feel a greater sense of ownership and are more likely to add (either directly, or through discussion with their line manager) additional activities to help them develop further in their current role and prepare for the next step in their career.  In this way, T&C plans develop a virtual life of their own, changing to meet the needs of the learner and evolving from the one-size compliance-focused learning plan in to a fully-grown personalised career development tool.

Both approaches are valid and are successful in different organisations – it’s up to you to find what works best for your own teams.  You may find that both approaches are useful but for different teams within your organisation.

If you’ve developed an approach to using T&C Plans with your learners that works particularly well, we’d love to hear about it.  If you’re new to managing teams or developing learning plans for an organisation, there are a range of courses and resources on the Development Zone to help you get the best from the platform and your learners, including our Supervisor Online Pathway and the DevZone Academy.

About the author

The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the view of RWA Compliance Services Ltd.

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