Edición 51, Human Resources

Strategic Training in the company

By: María Felisa Latorre-Navarro and Carlos Rivas

In the business world, there are two irrefutable truths, and yet they are often forgotten. On the one hand, intangible assets constitute the fundamental value of the company, providing it with a competitive advantage. On the other hand, among those assets, human capital is unique and unrepeatable within the company.

An organization with the best equipment and technology is not effective unless it has trained employees to use and take advantage of these assets.

Imagine a company that does not train its employees. When there is a lack of training, employees make mistakes. The errors, which can be of any type, will cause the organization to lose time, and as we well know, time is money. The lack of training starts a vicious circle in which the organization suffers deterioration in various ways (staff frustration because of their own inefficiency, delays in schedules, lost customers, unnecessary expenditures, etc.)

Many companies apply ineffective training methods and end up within the same vicious circle. If training is only provided when there is time or resources, or if the employee is unable to do their job (training), we are talking about minimum training, which is poorly planned, does not have a clear focus and that is not aligned with the vision of the company. Minimum training holds back the processes of the company, which, therefore, gradually ceases to be competitive.

In the book Theory of Human Capital (1993), author Gary Becker explains that what makes the difference between developed and developing countries, successful and unsuccessful organizations, is their human capital. Human capital has little to do with people as such, but rather it refers to what is inside them. Human capital is knowledge, skills, abilities, and even health – that is, all the attributes with which employees contribute an intangible, inimitable value that gives organizations a competitive advantage.

To form true human capital it is necessary to consider training from a strategic point of view. As in any strategy, it is necessary to analyze where we want to go as an organization and how we want to achieve it. For that, the first step is to know exactly where we stand. There are various tools that the company can use to know its current panorama, such as the SWOT analysis, the development of medium-and long-term vision, Porter’s 5 Forces, etc. By having an overview of the company’s situation, a training strategy can be planned that goes hand in hand with the vision of the organization.

Goldstein’s classic model of training (1991) is an example of how you can plan training. This model includes three phases: 1) assessment of learning needs, 2) design and training, and 3) evaluation of the training, in a feedback loop. This classic model is complemented by the model of West and Woods (2010), which emphasizes the importance of aligning training with the strategic vision of the organization. A syncretic way, based on both models, provides a third model that includes both the feedback loop, such as strategic planning, and a comprehensive evaluation as a key aspect in learning.

Figure 1. Based on Goldstein (1991) and West and Woods (2010)

Thus, for the assessment of learning needs phase, West and Woods (2010) established a model to identify where interventions are needed. This consists of five steps ranging from organizational factors to individual ones. First, it determines the level of support that a strategic training initiative would have and its real need. Second, it analyzes what the organizational culture is like and the climate for learning and training. After, the posts and jobs are analyzed and compared with the information about the respective occupation and with other organizations. Here area managers can be spoken with to obtain information. The next step is to analyze the knowledge, skills and abilities (KSA) that each post requires, as well as the skills needed for the various jobs. Finally, there is an analysis of the people with the intention of discovering the differences between their knowledge, skills and abilities, and the KSA required for the post.

In the second phase, a strategic plan for the training and its implementation based on the strategic needs of the organization (in anticipation of possible needs) is outlined. Also, identified needs are covered in the examination of the gaps that exist between the KSA of each post and the skills of its occupants. This is the moment to create the learning interventions and training. This phase is important, since to the extent that the interventions are aligned with the vision of the organization, they contribute to it.

The third phase covers the design of the training and its delivery. With the information obtained in the previous phase, the type of training considered most appropriate should be chosen. It is important to mention that people learn in different ways, and therefore, it is necessary to seek among the training alternatives that which will bring the greatest benefits to each post. Training can be given collectively or individually, whatever is most appropriate. There are a wide variety of training methods that range from lectures, demonstrations and simulations to on-the-job courses, coaching, mentoring and online learning, among others. In this phase, it is important that the design of the training is adjusted to the contents and the characteristics of the employees to be trained.

The last phase is crucial because it deals with measuring the results of the individuals at the end of the training program. To be objective, it is necessary to establish evaluation criteria. You can analyze the reactions (for example, surveys of satisfaction with the course), learning (such as a knowledge test), behavior (transference to the post) and the results of individuals after having gone through the learning process (for example, increased productivity). This assessment should culminate with the return to the first step. In the feedback from the training, and by aligning it with the strategic objectives of the company, you have to analyze what the new needs are and what can be improved in the current training program. It is necessary to measure; it is the most important part of the process, “What is not measured, does not grow.”

If this model is applied methodically, organizations can break the deadlock of the vicious circle and move to a value-generating circle. Strategic training based on the fulfillment of the strategic objectives of the organization develops individuals capable of performing effectively and achieving the strategic goals that the company has assigned to them individually. This has a multiplier effect as the organizational strategic goals are met. Lastly, we must not forget that training is intended to strengthen the members of the organization, to increase their human capital and their ability to generate value as citizens.


  • Goldstein, Irwin (1991). Training in work organizations. Los Ángeles: Consulting Psychologists Press.
  • Becker, Gary (1993). Human capital: A theoretical and empirical analysis, with special reference to education. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Woods, Stephen, y Michael West (2010), The Psychology of Work and Organizations. Hampshire: CENGAGE Learning Business Press.

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