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How important to your business is training?
In my view, the answer to this question should lie somewhere between ‘highly important’ and ‘utterly essential’. In most organisations there are obviously some specialised areas where very particular skills and knowledge need to be imparted to new hires. Individuals also have their own set of training and development needs, and often entire teams need to be trained to reflect changes in working practices or updates within the business.

In my time, I have worked with elite military units, professional sports teams, blue chip companies and academic institutions. Across all of these disparate organisations, there are more commonalities than you may think. Rather than requiring different training approaches for each different scenario, there is a single template that can be applied to each case. In this article, I will outline how businesses can improve their training processes in order to help all staff to perform at their peak.

Coaching is a full-time requirement
While there is sometimes a case for bringing in external specialists for training, there should be an effort to ensure that most of your training is handled internally. This is because the most effective trainer is someone who can be with the team all the time, like the coach of a sports team would be. Coaches have to be leaders. But they don’t necessarily have to be the boss, or even a manager. What they do have to be, though, is present.

As well as all of the hard skills that employees require in order to do their jobs, there are also soft skills to consider. Communication, teamwork, leadership and so on — are all areas that require solid training methods to extract the maximum performance. This training should be an ongoing thing, not something discussed in a single session and never thought of again. It’s not a box-ticking exercise, but something that can pay real dividends for your business. Staff should always be encouraged to constantly improve their performance and the best way to ensure this happens is for their coach to always be there, helping them at every step.

Train the trainers
When evaluating the effectiveness of your training methods, the first thing you must examine is the trainer themselves. It’s vital to train the trainers, turning them into coaches that can affect and influence their team and take their collective performance to the next level.

The approach involves a great deal of inner reflection. We need to understand ourselves — our ambitions and our strengths — before we can truly identify the ambitions and strengths in others. From this, we can formulate a vision and strategy for the team that helps everyone to reach their goals by using the talents and skills they have. To do this the leader needs to be coached in strategic thinking at a tactical, operational and strategic level. This should incorporate the business’ values and culture, which should always guide the coach’s thinking and behaviour. A strong ethos is essential to ensuring loyalty and unity within a team.

The coach also needs to be trained in advanced communication techniques — not just talking, of course, but listening and understanding too — as well as how to develop coping strategies for dealing with highly pressurised situations. A key part of this is learning how to orientate and navigate emotional and mental space in oneself and others; as well as forming robust and sustainable routines and habits that enable them to maintain and build resilience and boost their wellbeing. The overall aim is to construct a complete ‘warrior’ who knows exactly what they stand for, what they want to achieve and how they are going to do it, with the strength and determination to be able to do so.

The idea is that these principles can be learned by your leaders, who can then take the same approach with those that they have responsibility for training. That way, then, you can train your staff — each and every one of them — to be a coach and a leader. This is a sound long term plan that will enable your business to keep performing at its peak, with everyone sharing their knowledge and continually learning from one another as time goes on.

What to avoid when training staff
Learning by rote is still a method that I see being used frequently by trainers in many walks of life. Teachers, military officers, and managers in all kinds of workplaces have all been guilty of using this outdated technique. It might help people to learn facts by heart but it rarely, if ever, teaches them any skill that could be usefully applied elsewhere. There is no benefit to sitting staff down in a boardroom and lecturing them — it’s simply a waste of time.

Instead we need to focus more on helping trainers and coaches to extract elite performance. A holistic approach to teaching can’t just involve imparting what you know, it’s about helping your charges to develop and fulfil their potential by supporting them as they learn. The good news is that with the right approach the same key principles always apply, meaning these techniques can be used effectively in schools, the armed forces, professional sports and businesses up and down the country.

    With 24 years’ service with 22 Special Air Service, experience with COBRA and as Head of the UK Counter Terrorist Wing, Floyd leads Quantum’s team of experts, and was a top 50 fintech founder by leading industry publication The Financial Technologist.

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