The OMBEA audience response system (ARS) has always been a popular choice for corporate and public sector training. Trainers can take advantage of gathering real time opinions from their delegates and use this to direct their training activity to make it more relevant and focused on the needs of the participants, and the delegates appreciate being able to make their voices heard within the training room and sharing their expertise. As we have written in a p​revious blog​,​ OMBEA allows a move from passive participation to active engagement and that can only have a positive impact on training outcomes. Having an ARS to hand enhances the capability of the trainer and gives them a direct connection with the course participants.

Training in Challenging Economic Times

Since 2008 companies have been facing challenging economic circumstances and many have been focusing on surviving the recession and building a business model to cope with a very different world. Likewise public sector organisations have been forced into some serious drives to improve efficiency and cut costs as the amount of money they have is being reduced year on year. These are tough times, and the temptation is to see training as a luxury or a ‘nice to have’ feature, cutting it to a bare minimum to save money for more pressing operational activities. But of course this view is short­term and simplistic. Many organisations and managers realise that tough times call for brave thinking and radical decisions: Maintaining training budgets or even increasing them may well be the best long term strategy to help an organisation weather the economic headwinds.

‘Training Floors’ and ‘Training Ceilings’

The concept of training floors and training ceilings has been developed by Felstead and Jewson (2014) to describe how companies have adapted their training strategies for the new economic times. The ‘training floor’ describes the minimum amount of training a company needs to do in order to meet statutory and legislative standards. For instance staff in banking and insurance need regular updating on compliance training and this must take place or the company is in trouble with regulatory bodies and can face fines or court action.​The ‘training ceiling’ is a way of visualising the maximum training offering made by the company. This includes courses and learning opportunities which are in addition to any minimum and therefore provide ways in which staff can engage in professional development to add value to what the company does and also make them feel valued as individuals. Felstead and Jewson found that some companies actually boosted training during a recession and pushed the training ceiling higher as managers saw a renewed investment in their staff as a strategy to improve the performance on a company in tough times. For companies with vision the training budget therefore becomes not a drain on essential resources which can be used elsewhere, but a core activity of the organisation as it adapts to new circumstances. Smart companies take training seriously and find the money to do this properly. And they are repaid with a skilled and motivated workforce.

Quality of Training

Although we use the word ‘training’ as a catch all term to describe a certain type of activity which people engage in, this simple word masks a very complex and diverse set of methods and objectives. Not all training is created equal; the quality of training can vary enormously as a result of many different factors. When money is tight, no organisation can afford to waste money on ineffective training. Every pound spent must represent good value. One of the best ways of ensuring quality training is to ensure participants can put it to use immediately in the work environment. This was the finding of Diamantidis and Chatzoglou (2014) who found that training which is linked to the practical challenges of the work environment is most effective in changing employee behaviour. Quality of training can also be enhanced by ensuring participants can take an active part in the training. If you have training courses which are still dominated by PowerPoint presentations and with the trainers doing most or all of the talking, then there’s a strong incentive to change the framework, and give participants a chance to discuss, debate and present for themselves. This is where the OMBEA audience response system really comes into its own. By asking some targeted (and sometimes provocative questions), trainers can stimulate debate and discussion in the training group. Participants can sometimes be reluctant to enter into debate but OMBEA provides a voice for everyone in the group and once the results of questions are displayed, we find that people are far more comfortable at joining in and sharing their opinions. Training is often theoretical rather than practical in nature. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as general principles do need outlining in the training room, but with OMBEA the trainers can ask questions related to how participants will apply what they are learning in their jobs and through discussion stimulated by the questions inject the dimension of realism into the sessions.

Conclusion

Economists tell us that the UK economy is now back in growth mode, and many (but not all) believe the long dark days of the recession are being replaced by the more sunny outlook of a sustainable recovery. But businesses are still wary, and many are cautious about investing until the green shoots are good and strong. During the last year, staff at OMBEA have worked with many companies to embed audience response and voting into the training culture of the organisation and we are set for an even busier 2015 in the corporate marketplace. As companies continue to maximise their investment in training and equip their staff for the challenges ahead, adding an ARS to the toolkit of the training function within the company is a sound investment to ensure training is high quality and immediately applicable to the workplace.

References

Diamantidis, A. & Chatzoglou, P. (2014) Employee post­training behaviour and performance: evaluating the results of the training process,​International Journal of Training and Development,​18:3. 149­170.

Felstead, A. & Jewson, N. (2014) ‘Training floors’ and ‘training ceilings’: metonyms for understanding training trends, J​ournal of Vocational Education & Training,​66:3, 296­310,