PEOPLE are an organisation's most valuable asset. Organisations can encourage their employees to learn new skills that are portable and equip them to meet new challenges.

They can learn in a customised fashion in workshops tailored to meet a company's needs. Learning must be affordable, accessible and continual. This process is called training.

Training can close:

* Strategic change gaps, by facilitating changes in the organisation's direction or a change in corporate culture;

* Orientation gaps, by familiarising employees to the organisation or new strategic business units;

* Skills gaps, by elevating the skills of every employee; and

* Organisation gaps, by facilitating changes in business plans, for instance, products, services and technology.

Adult learning

There are two major streams of learning - child learning (pedagogy) and adult learning (andragogy). Training for adults is based on andragogic principles.

Because adults realise that training is the key to their work performance, they initiate learning themselves. They need to be involved and consulted. Content must be relevant to the workplace and to their needs.

They want to be treated as equals. The training room must be a non-threatening environment where they can practise without any fear or embarrassment.

Adult learners appreciate feedback on their progress, question and challenge ideas they disagree with and validate ideas they agree with. They need to be challenged. If they aren't, they get bored.

Given their wide range of experiences, adult learners need to relate what they learn to their workplace. They are interested in practical answers to today's challenges.

Today's workforce is more educated. Many are graduates who are familiar with information technology. They are more vocal and more directed in their learning.

They prefer different learning activities in various training media.

Nowadays, there are both full-time and permanent part-time employees, contract hires, temps and interns. Besides on-site training, many training activities take place off-sites.

Participants want to know how they benefit from the training. If they invest their time and money to participate in a workshop, they want to know the return on investment (ROI).

Does it justify their time and investment? Can they apply what they have learned to their job? Can they do the job faster and more efficiently? Can they get more money?

Successful training

Training must be linked to the goals of the organisation. At the end of the training session, the employee must be able to use the skills he has picked up to make a contribution to the organisation.

Senior management must support training initiatives. For example, a high-ranking executive can open the training workshop by giving a speech or end it by presenting certificates of completion.

Senior managers can also reward participants who apply what they learn in the workplace. Training results must be measured and evaluated. Measurement will lead inevitably to improved performance.

Adult learners remember best what they have learned recently. They need to be involved in exercises that can be implemented immediately. They demand practical solutions to today's challenges.

Confucius said: "I hear and I may forget. I see and I remember. If I get involved, I understand for the rest of my life."

Tomorrow, we will examine what makes a trainer successful in both training and marketing his programmes.