Everyone wins when training becomes the norm and not the exception in the modern workplace, Chattanooga human resources expert says

Contributed photography / Merri Mai Williamson

Snippets and sound bites are mostly short-lived and not very memorable. But during a business discussion in 2000, a colleague shared that "People will only give you what you inspect, unless you expect," and this has stayed etched in my mind ever since.

Expect. We all expect something from people and situations, and we reveal our expectations in a variety of ways, using verbal and non-verbal communication. In the workplace, employers disclose expectations, for example, in job descriptions and manuals for policies and procedures, as well as in the way they manage and train staffers.

It could be argued that training is the primary way expectations are communicated. After all, you begin training your future employees as soon as you post a job, which details the education and experience they must have to be qualified and how they express interest in the position.

In this first exposure to your company, you have set an expectation. You are training the interested candidate to follow your instruction on how to apply for the job and what is minimally expected of them, if they are chosen. But it does not stop there.

Training continues (or at least it should) throughout the employee's tenure with your organization. However, it is only as effective as the process you use, beginning with an analysis of your needs. Look for inefficiencies or improvements, and then design educational sessions to address the issues or opportunities for enhancements. Establish S.M.A.R.T. goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-based.

After you have assessed the developmental needs of your company and crafted a training program, select a 'teacher' who has the pertinent knowledge and expertise, as well as an engaging personality, to make the sessions fun and memorable. You may need to consider someone outside of your organization, as human nature often causes people to believe that experts do not exist under their roof. (My spouse proves this statement to be true on a weekly basis, wink-wink!)

The process of training continues, even after the session completion, as it is imperative that you evaluate its success. When training is put into practice, the end result should, at a minimum, reach the S.M.A.R.T. goals you set. Use your measurables and your timeline to determine if the training was effective. If the goals were not met, seek feedback from the employees and focus on additional coaching sessions to fill in the gaps.

Throughout these few paragraphs, I have intentionally not addressed the greatest variable: people have different learning styles. Some learn by seeing or watching, while others grasp a concept by listening. Some are quicker to understand when they read about the topic or take notes. And still others are much more successful with a hands-on approach (the actual practical application).

Incorporating a one-size-fits-all technique to your training sessions will mean that some of your employees will successfully implement the instruction, while others may be marginal at best. Including components of all four learning styles will give your organization the greatest return on the educational investment.

Too often, especially when times are difficult, training regimens are set aside for later. But the tough times are when training is needed the most.

We have all been guilty of postponing training for another day. We tell ourselves that we will do it tomorrow -- again and again and again. Benjamin Franklin was right when he said, "Don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today."

Today's employees expect companies to invest in their continued education and advancement; and those companies expect employees to use their knowledge, skills and abilities to help the organization reach its goals.

Everyone wins, when training becomes the norm and not the exception. Just remember: "People will only give you what you inspect, unless you expect."

Merri Mai Williamson has worked in human resources for more than 30 years and holds two national certifications at the highest level. She is the founder of two Chattanooga businesses: Application Researchers, a background checking service; and a human resources consulting firm, HR Master Consultants. Williamson has been a member of Southeast TN SHRM for over 20 years and is a past-president of the organization. Southeast TN SHRM (formerly known as SHRM Chattanooga, shrmchattanooga.com) is the Chattanooga Chapter affiliate of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM.org), whose mission is to create better workplaces in where employers and employees thrive together.