Don't look a gift course in the mouth


If you want to ensure that your training budget isn’t wasted, just make it personal, says Bianca Filmalter, CEO of the Association for Office Professionals South Africa (OPSA)

The Association for Office Professionals South Africa (OPSA) aims to set standards for the administrative industry and encourage academic and service excellence within Southern Africa. One of the biggest challenges OPSA faces in achieving this goal is to educate both employees and employers of the pitfalls and dangers when selecting training providers and programmes. It is important that employers take steps to ensure that employees are attending training that is of relevance and benefit to their professional development in order that they will be able to add value to the company.

Developing your employees can be compared to investing money in the bank. If you have money to invest you will research various savings or investment plans on offer from different financial institutions. You will do comparisons, check the interest rates and then, after much thought, decide which institution will give you a better return on your investment. In other words, add value and give you more than you originally started with. You do not simply walk into the bank and open an account without asking any questions or finding out how it will add value to you.

When looking at the training providers and programmes on offer, first consider some of the following.

The ‘promise’ of international recognition and certifications

Most training programmes now appear with the promise of international recognition and certification. In most cases the recognition and certification is only recognised by the training provider that is offering the programme. It is only when delegates apply for another post or promotion and proudly show their certificates to companies that they find the certificates have no value.

The word ‘international’ does not necessarily mean that the programme is accepted worldwide. It is sometimes simply the case that the training provider operates from a different country. The cost of these ‘international’ programmes is generally huge and similar qualifications can be obtained in South Africa that are recognised by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA). The qualifications are half the price compared to the international programme and are recognised by companies in South Africa – in other words, they have value.

Do not take everything you read on the marketing brochure or a website at face value. Ask questions and get references where you can from others that have perhaps already completed the programme. If the programme states that they are recognised by other institutions then there is no harm in checking if they are. Information on the website and marketing brochures should be verified where possible.

Facilitators are not always subject matter experts

There are training programmes being marketed that do not state who the facilitators are. Employers and delegates have the right to ask for the details of the facilitator to ensure that they are subject matter experts. Even if the facilitator is on the programme, there is still no harm in checking them out!

‘Gifts’ replacing personal development

Sadly, there are delegates who are drawn to a training programme because of the gadget or gift that they will receive for attending. Little or no regard is given to the knowledge they will gain or the possibility of closing their skills gap. Delegates from large organisations sometimes attend the same course numerous times, simply for the gift, while others look for training opportunities in different venues. For instance, if someone works in Johannesburg but they would like to visit their family in Cape Town, they might choose to attend training that is available in Cape Town?

There is always an issue about the cost of training, but there seems to be no control from the employer side as to how they are spending their training budget. Is it necessary for an employee to fly to another venue and have accommodation for a course that can be held locally? The cost of the flight and accommodation could pay for another employee to be trained.

A cost-effective approach could also be found with in-house training. There are reputable training providers who offer onsite training that can be hosted at your organisation for a reduced rate based on the number of attendees. When your employees ask to attend a training programme it’s essential that you ask the relevant questions! Check the cost of the programme. Encourage them to do a skills gap analysis and to focus on the areas where they need to grow. Keep a spreadsheet to check on the training they have already been on. Don’t just accept the programme and give them the go-ahead.

The last word…

By taking the time and effort to invest in the training of your employees the same way that you would invest a lump sum of money, it will give you the same reward as well as saving you time and money!

OPSA aims to work together with training providers in Southern Africa to ensure that they operate ethically and to endorse their programs if they are found to be of value. This will help employers and employees in selecting training providers and programs.

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