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March 7, 2008

Reporting is the formal documentation of the training process and is a written journal of any training that occurred. It is an extremely valuable document in any organisation because it is also a record of what has been learned not only by the student, but also the training team.

Often this part of the training is seen as ‘just a formality’, given just enough attention by the trainer to get it past the training manager and into the filing cabinet. Only when the student is suffering extreme difficulty does the trainer, from fear of liability from the future actions, give it the attention it deserves. The most well written reports I have ever seen are damning accounts of why training should cease and the student be employed elsewhere. Why shouldn’t the same amount of attention be given to a prospering student? The answer is probably because the trainer feels that they don’t need it.

Why is reporting so important?

The importance lies in the content and in my experience, training reports serve very little use if they aren’t actually useful. This may sound like a self supporting, circular statement but the key reason we do report is the value that it represents to everyone.

To the student: The report is a record of successes and failures that the student can refer to. If well analysed, the student can gather lessons that may apply to future scenarios (eg that approach failed here but I can work there). Any trainer worth their salt will be following up failures with what went wrong and what to do differently when the situation arises again. This is adding tools and techniques to the students repertoire of problem solving skills.

To the trainer: We keep a report of remedial action that was offered to the student so that we can evaluate its success. After a few reports you will have a fair account of what works best at motivating the student, changing their behaviours and enlisting their help. It is also a record of what was taught, what they have experienced and where their strengths/weaknesses lie.

To other trainers: The report is valuable insight in how the student responds to various techniques or reacts under certain circumstances. It is in effect, learning from the mistakes of others and allows new trainers pick up from where the previous trainer left off, rather than reinventing the wheel.

To training management: This is where all training can benefit, regardless of who, what or where the training was about. New trainers can review reports to learn new strategies and techniques. Common mistakes can be publicised (anonymously) to improve awareness and avoidance. It also allows training plans to be reviewed and made more realistic (eg resource usage).

To the organisation: This is greater insight into the employees and lets you identify who are your best trainers and learners. It assists in selection for undertaking new roles, especially if the company is about to embark on an enterprise with an associated training burden (new equipment, stock or markets). What about lessons the apply across disciplines such as running briefings, coaching and mentoring, audits and assessments or delivering presentations?

Compiling training reports can be administratively painful for trainers, especially if you have been chosen for your subject matter expertise and still fulfil a significant operational role. However, it is important to invest time in compiling and delivering your report. In terms of cost vs benefit, a well written, comprehensive and accurate report will contribute tenfold to the expense. I’ve seen students keep these for years.

Next: Format and content

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