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Effective management training for supervisors; program selection and administration have one main goal: to put participants' new skills to work in the lab.

The first step in planning a management training program for supervisors is to select an audience and assess their specific needs. We discussed this initial phase in Part I of this article (MLO, July 1985). In conclusion, we will explore the rest of the process: choosing the right program or combination of programs, implementing them, and evaluating them.

Select the program. Choices are many, and so are price tags. In 1983, U.S. organizations allocated more than a third of their training dollars to seminars and conferences, according to Training magazine. They spent 18 per cent of the training budget on outside services; 18 per cent on off-the-shelf materials; 17 percent on computer hardware; and 15 per cent on custom materials. Of course, the most important determinant for your laboratory will be your supervisors' particular needs.

If classes are large or scheduled to be repeated often, most laboratories desire an in-house program. The institution's human resources department can often administer such a program without outside help.

Excellent Audiovisual courses are available off the shelf; the better ones require some training for in-house moderators. Expert speakers and consultants are more than willing to deliver their wares, of course--for a price.

Various outside workshops and seminars are geared to training small numbers of employees. They are offered by organizations such as the American Management Association and the Society for the Advancement of Management. Universities and colleges have also expanded their credit and noncredit management courses.

Professional organizations such as the College of American Pathologists and the American Society of Medical Technologists now include many management seminars in their annual meetings. In addition, there are shelfloads of books and periodicals on administration and management. Many deal specifically with laboratory management. A checklist of desirable features can help determine the most appropriate program.

Determine Cost. When you invest in management training, you may be talking big bucks. Perform a cost estimate first. For a simple approximation, determine 10 per cent of the yearly salary of all learners, and use that as a rough cost for a week-long course.

Get the program approved. Approval almost always requires a written request. Because it is usually part of a departmental budget request, make it concise and complete. The better you justify your costs, the better are your chances for approval. To reduce the risk of being turned down, include less expensive alternate plans with your proposal.

One simple form for needs assessment reports is shown in Figure I. It includes information on how needs were determined; general training objectives for various staff members; and specific recommendations on training mode; topic, trainer, participants, location and time, along with the cost of each offering.

Meet with trainees. There's more to rounding up your audience than simply asking managers to nominate candidates, or soliciting candidates directly. You can minimize disillusionment and maximize results by discussing the programs with potential trainees beforehand.

Attendance must be voluntary. Participants must be convinced that the effort will benefit them as much as it does the organization. They shouldn't feel like convicted drunken drivers forced to take a remedial course.

Candidates should meet one-on-one with their superiors or members of the training staff to clarify the purpose of attendance and anticipated improvements. Here are a few suggestions on how to get the most out of these closed-door sessions: * Show interest in the supervisors' performance and career development, and explain how the program will help them. * Indicate the amount of financial support being offered. * Discuss arrangements for substitute coverage back on the job. * Don't force participation. Encourage candidates to voice their concerns and ask questions. Find out preferences for course content and structure, time, and place. * Offer assurance that newly acquired techniques will be supported by higher management. * Make certain that candidates know what is expected of them when they return.

Before teaching, a golf pro tells a pupil to "hit a few." Likewise, pre-program testing for candidates, through questionnaires or structured interviews, may also help. It can offer guidance to trainers in formulating courses, and may also result in excusing certain individuals from all or part of the program.

Meet with Trainers. If these preliminary steps are carried out by anyone other than the trainers themselves, arrange a meeting between the training planners and providers. Trainers must know precisely what management and participants expectf at the very least, they should know the size and composition of the trainee group. Too often, trainers arrive without knowledge of the class members' backgrounds or needs--and once the session starts, it's too late for a background session.

Meet with Trainees' superiors. Each participant's boss must understand that successful on-the-job application of training depends largely on his or her support. Ideally, these managers should have taken the same courses. An excellent alternative is a "management reinforcement" workshop held before or during supervisor training.

In these workshops, managers find out what their subordinates willlearn, and how they--the managers--can help nurture and reinforce new skills. They are reminded that permanent improvement is unlikely without their special efforts to sustain behavioral changes.

Meet with trainers and trainees during the program. If the program takes weeks or months, planners or department heads should meet regularly with trainers and participants. There is still time at this point to make some modifications. In a few extreme cases, good judgment may mandate substituting trainers, changing the length of the program or even aborting it, or dropping some participants. One recalcitrant trainee, after all, can ruin a fine program.

Early on, it may become clear that trainees need more time to achieve the stated objectives. This is most apt to occur when the audience is larger than anticipated, or when time-consuming role-playing exercises are used.

As the course nears completion, it is advisable to remind trainees' superiors once again of their vital roles in the skill transfer process.

Evaluate the program. As a rule, participants fill out a standard evaluation form when the sessions are over, just before they rush back to their home bases. But trainees should do more than assign grades to the trainers and facilities. they should summarize key points they found to be of particular value, and relate how they plan to put their new skills to work.

Try to ensure that trainees leave with favorable impressions. Nothing kills a program faster than word-of-mouth reports that it's a turkey. Even good reviews, however, don't guarantee good results. Many trainers become skillful in coaxing out high marks, even when the program itself has little practical value, by using plenty of showmanship and entertaining role-playing.

A more valuable approach is to conduct the post-mortem a few weks after the excitement has subsided. Line management should initiate the evaluation, but usually the training department must do so. Leters are sent to participants and their superiors, asking what changes in performance, attitude, or knowledge have been observed. When only a few supervisors have been trained, this information can be solicited in small groups or individual interviews.

Reward trainees. Appropriate rewards reinforce new behavior or attitudes, prevent backsliding, and encourage future improvements. One of these rewards is the participants' own sense of satisfaction. The most gratifying response by trainees is the demand for more training. This satisfaction depends largely on support from above in the chain of command, especially in the form of positive strokes.

There are other possible benefits, such as an increased measure of delegated authority, added responsibilities, and higher-level assignments. If supervisors earn merit raises, promotions, or higher marks on performance appraisals within a reasonable period of time, and perceive them as related to the training program, it will be heralded as an outstanding success.

To sum up, training and career development programs are most likely to be cost-effective and enthusiastically received when based on a thorough assessment of needs. It is vital to prepare trainees before the program, and enlist the support of top management.

Then there is the bottom line: successful transfer of skills from the classroom to the workplace. That depends largely on whether trainees' immediate superiors provide a fertile environment for the seeds of good management training to flourish.
COPYRIGHT 1985 Nelson Publishing
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Copyright 1985 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Umiker, William O.
Publication:Medical Laboratory Observer
Date:Aug 1, 1985
Previous Article:A tour of lab medicine, Soviet-style.
Next Article:Moving lab revenues and costs outside the hospital.

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