As opposed to a top-down training methodology discussed last week, a bottom-up approach to training management relies on creativity, collaboration and communication, as well as a degree of organizational flexibility and agility. Essentially, under this approach, executive management defines high-level corporate and training goals. Smaller teams are responsible for defining targets that contribute to these goals and configuring training regimens accordingly. Team leads and managers are accountable to their supervisors, but teams themselves are graced with the flexibility to adjust training and procedural approaches on the basis of both their ‘up-close-and-personal’ knowledge of the processes they are exposed to most intimately and regularly, and the fresh insights that accompany new additions to the team who are recently trained or in the midst of training. The net result is teams, departments and the organization at large is able to achieve defined targets and goals more effectively and expeditiously.
In spite of the apparent benefits, bottom-up approaches can be difficult to adopt. Firstly, while in effect bottom-up approaches do not necessarily relinquish senior management of actual control, they often generate the perception of requiring managers, directors and executive staff to cede control. Also, the migration to a bottom-up approach from an entrenched, top-down approach will often generate an amount of institutional friction as it represents a degree of cultural change. In some cases, it can be difficult to convince established management/executives that a bottom-up approach ought to be tried.
That stated, the benefits of bottom-up training approaches are vast and include:
- Common Goals: Since trainees and trainers are, by the nature of bottom-up training, driven by targets that contribute to organization-wide goals, they are more inclined to appreciate their role within the organization and understand how training relates to the accomplishment of organizational objectives.
- Enhanced Communication: Bottom-up approaches thrive on communication. With top-down training approaches, trainers and trainees are handed sets and subsets of tasks that, in isolation, don’t engender a coherent sense of where a department or organization is headed and why. However, when those tasks are framed by targets, which in turn are framed by goals, employees are encouraged to go out of their comfort zone, interact with individuals from other teams and departments within the context of common goals, adopting more effective and holistic approaches as a result. This dynamic bleeds into training as trainers and teams craft more focused, nuanced training programs that are driven by big-picture thinking.
- Continuous Improvement: Bottom-up methodologies invite all affected parties to provide feedback and proposed improvements on training programs to ensure they are as effective and efficient as possible. This include not only feedback from existing employees who may have informed perspectives and thoughtful suggestions; it also includes fresh insights from those who are new to the organization and have recently completed training or, in some cases, are in the midst of training. While obviously all suggestions from a new hire would not be immediately incorporated into an established program, the potential value of an outside perspective, unencumbered of the ‘corporate myopia’ that tends to afflict individuals and teams that have worked within an organization for protracted durations, and this is accomplished by leveraging individual talent more effectively.
- Improved Morale: No successful business leader should need to be convinced of the virtue of a high level of employee morale. It boosts productivity, efficiency, retention, innovation and, ultimately, the bottom line. Bottom-up training approaches engender improved morale in three critical ways: Employees realize their insights and suggestions will be heard and valued; they will make the effort to communicate suggestions since they won’t see a futility in attempting to foster change; and they will have a greater level of job satisfaction by understanding how their work contributes to the whole.
While the benefits of a bottom-up training approach are clear, recall that the virtue of a top-down approach is simplicity. Bottom-up approaches can be more difficult to implement and manage, given they feature an array of insights, suggestions, proposed changes and approvals. However, training management software tools exist to streamline and prioritize information and also minimize the financial burden of any approach to training management.
For more on how to adopt an effective bottom-up training methodology, check out Cultivating Competence: Leveraging Training Tools for Measurable Results, an Intelex white paper.