In business, there is little debate about the importance for companies to invest in their people by offering training and other learning opportunities. The premise is that money spent in training expenditures will eventually come back in terms of enhanced shareholder value.

The American Society for Training and Development (ASTD), for instance, in a study conducted in 2000 found that companies who invested in employee training not only experienced positive financial growth but higher profit margins.

Briefly, training refers to the acquisition of knowledge skills and other competencies that are relevant for long term professional or personal growth as a result of teaching vocational and technical skills that relate to these competencies. But training is not limited to classroom sessions or institutional menus that organizations provide. In fact, it starts from the moment a person lays his hand into a productive undertaking and hones his skills and knowledge through activities that tend to develop familiarity of its processes. Learning continues, or rather, extends far and beyond the four corners of the classroom.

Yet, like all other investments, training is profitable only when "invested" properly. Moreover, it should not be done just for the sake of doing it. Rather, it should be made available to those who are willing to embrace it so that it could effect substantial change in their professional or even personal lives.

The right employee training, development and education, given at the right time for the right people, provides big payoffs for the employer in terms of increased productivity, knowledge, loyalty, and contribution. This is typically accomplished through a complete or more holistic training program that includes not just a system for orienting new employees but a comprehensive continuing education program that will keep the employees abreast with company goals, policies and procedures.

Companies must also be mindful of what they are training their employees for. Training is essentially reward for a job well done. Thus, it should be given as part of standard operating procedure. Dealing with "soft skills" training, however, is another story. It is not uncommon for companies to fall into the trap of sending employees to all sorts of "behavioral modification" supposedly to "correcting" their "weaknesses" only to realize its futility after investing wastefully on time and money.

To get the best out of people, training then must be directed primarily to enhancing people's "natural talents or skills" rather than to correcting their inherent weaknesses. Instead of a tool to reinvent people, it should serve as a catalyst to ignite their inner strengths and become better individuals.

Finally, being creative, innovative, open-minded, and responsive still remains to be the best indicators to ensure that learning takes place either for oneself, one's team, or one's organization. This is because in the end, one cannot really teach people how to be bold and take risks-people have to experience those which make them bolder and come face to face with those that make them want to take risks.

Training, just like life, must be experienced. ---JK