Sustainable trainer support

30 September 2016

Lynn Webster, managing director of Lynn Webster Consultants (LWC), explains why failing to implement or sustain a process for supporting and upskilling trainers of cleaning staff can undermine the effectiveness of the training model in the medium to long-term

Establishing and implementing effective models of training and development (T&D), those that can weather the changes wrought by external factors and internal necessity, has always been a critical factor for the cleaning industry. Working closely with independent training suppliers, building a responsive internal team, developing the delivery skills of supervisory and front-line staff, buying in specialist training on an ad hoc basis, or indeed a combination of any or all of these, all have their place in ensuring that the cleaning workforce plays its part in fulfilling the organisation’s objectives.

Achieving objectives

Achieving the organisation’s objectives, in the short, medium and long term, lies at the core of any T&D strategy, and of course must incorporate the performance needs of all roles within the organisation. Specifying these performance needs, determining to what extent each individual has the skills, knowledge and expertise to achieve these, and then confirming the ‘gaps’ and enabling access to the necessary T&D to address these is complex, time-consuming and not as straightforward as we would want. 

Each of the approaches to T&D outlined at the start requires a clarity of vision and an in-depth understanding of all the factors that impact positively and negatively on the effectiveness of programmes. Training for training’s sake is far too costly and so any training programme must have a direct bearing on organisational achievement. Where then should the responsibility for the training of front-line staff lie? What is needed for this to underpin wider objectives, while improving individual and team performance?

Training supervisors & team leaders

Embedding training through training trainers and assessment schemes, such as that offered by BICSc, (License to Practice and CPPS) can prove a viable method. By equipping supervisory and team-leading staff for example with the means to deliver skills-based training to cleaning staff they are more likely to respond to client-driven needs, environmental demands and service changes.

Many supervisors and team leaders have come up through the cleaning ranks, so to speak, but this is likely to mean that the individuals concerned have little in the way of proven supervisory skills, perhaps adopting the means and methods of their own supervisors which can replicate poor practice, or simply maintain an underperforming status quo - particularly where more senior management has failed to tackle performance shortfalls that they might have. There is the question of having sufficient and a detailed knowledge with the ability and confidence to pass on such information and understanding to others, another skill in itself. This often remains hidden until problems arise and criticism is thrust upon the individuals concerned.

Supervisors who have undergone ‘train the trainer’ or equivalent development can find their existing workplace environment prevents them from fully putting their new skills into practice. Management may take the attitude that training will now become the responsibility of the newly trained supervisor, seeing training as a bolt on, something that will happen as a matter of course and not necessarily part of an overall organisational development strategy. 

The bigger picture

Everyone who has ever delivered training will have been faced with the stubborn trainee, the person who doesn’t believe they need the training or adamantly refuses to put the training into practice. Where a supervisor is faced with this from individuals within their team it is indicative of fundamental performance or an issue of attitude that no amount of training can properly address.

Equipping individuals with delivery skills as trainers goes part way to training being seen as part of the job, closely allied to the supervision that happens on a shift by shift basis. If organisations look at T&D in terms of its integral importance to performance standards, in the short and medium term as a minimum, then setting support structures in place that facilitate every form of T&D taking place within that organisation is essential. 

A sustainable training model, one that positively impacts organisational objectives, is only feasible where there is a well-structured, performance-related support mechanism in place throughout each and every level of the organisation. A challenge to every manager, but an important one nonetheless.