"The only thing worse than training employees and losing them is not training them and keeping them." Zig Ziglar

HR experts make a distinction between training (improving people's skills in their current job) and development (improving skills for future roles). Both training and development are essential and can be inter-related. We train and develop our people though a two-step process:

1) Education - "learning what to do"
2) Application - "doing what you learned"

Following are 15 specific tools we can use to train and develop our people.

1) College/University Classes
As a long-time university instructor, I can attest to the value of having your people take classes to broaden their knowledge and sharpen their basic skills. Whether a person is degree-oriented or not, taking classes in management, operations, human resources, finance, information technology, etc. provides an educational foundation that enhances a person's ability to excel at doing real work back at the workplace.

2) In-House Classes
Larger companies often have in-house classes available on a variety of useful topics. Work with your HR folks - and don't be bashful in suggesting classes that would be of value to people on your team and throughout the organization.

3) External Seminars & Webinars
There are a number of companies (e.g. Fred Pryor, Career Track, Skill Path, AMA) that offer one- or two-day seminars on useful topics ranging from working with vendors to time management to dealing with difficult employees. There is also an increasing number of free or low-cost webinars available covering a wide range of topics. I build in dollars in my budget to cover some classes for employees, and I urge you to do so too.

4) Conferences
Participating in conferences like National Postal Forum and MailCom is a great investment and has many benefits. I am actively involved in conferences and get some of my people involved because nothing matches the opportunities at a good conference: ability to learn best practices from the top leaders and practitioners in the industry; ability to learn and see in action the latest technology; ability to network with peers, vendors and industry experts; and the stimulation to go back home and move your operation to a higher level of excellence. Some may say they can't afford to attend a conference - I would say how can you afford not to?

5) Trade Associations like MSMA (Mail System Management Association) and PCCs (Postal Customer Councils)
I belong to MSMA and my local PCC and encourage you to do likewise - and have some of your team members join you. Trade associations provide opportunities for learning, networking and professional development. Volunteering to serve in your local chapter further enhances the benefits to you and your organization by deeper networking and leadership development.

6) Professional Certification Programs
Pursuing certification programs is a great way to challenge yourself and deepen your understanding of the field. My four supervisors have six certifications among them, and the majority of the Printing & Mail Services department is certified. Key certifications related to the mail industry are the "Certified Mail Systems Distribution Manager" and "Mail Piece Design Consultant" (refer to msmanational.org) and the "Executive Mail Center Manager" and "Mail Piece Design Professional" (see usps.com).

7) Recurring Team Meetings
Many teams meet on a periodic basis for information sharing purposes - which is good. However, there is an opportunity to add an education component to some of these recurring meetings. You or team members can report out on learning from conferences and local trade association events. You can invite subject matter experts from other parts of your company to do presentations - I have used experts from Finance, HR, Customer Service and various operational areas to help educate us. Training videos are also a great resource for team meetings.

8) Off-site training days
For concentrated learning, taking people away from the work site for a one-half or full day training session is unbeatable. I have off-site training for entire teams that often focuses on team building skills in additional to technical training. We have quarterly off-site meetings for my Supervisors and Leads that focus on leadership and management training.

9) Trade Journals
Trade journals are a great tool to keep up with current developments in the industry and learn best practices from industry experts. I recommend Mail journal (570-686-2111) and free publications like Mailing Systems Technology (www.MailingSystemsTechnology.com) and USPS's MailPro (see USPS.com web site).

10) Job Shadowing
Job shadowing involves having a person spend a period of time (often one to eight hours) "shadowing" another to better understand what that person does. I have used job shadowing to allow potential Supervisors or Managers to shadow myself or one of my Supervisors to gain a feel for what is expected. Team members have shadowed others in connecting departments to broaden their understanding of the interfaces between departments.

11) Mentoring
Serving as a "mentor" or participating as a "mentoree" is educational and valuable. I spent five years as a "mentoree" with a Vice President of the company. I learned a lot from the experience and had a good sounding board when facing challenges on my teams. Likewise, I have served as a mentor to a number of employees within the company in recent years and really have enjoyed their opportunity to help develop people and to support mutual learning.

12) Special Projects and Assignments: Give Presentations
Giving people a chance to work on special projects is a great method to learn new skills and apply "book learning." I will intentionally give team members projects to lead or support as opportunities to help them gain hands on experience and build their practical expertise.

13) OJT
It's been said that nothing beats OJT (On Job Training) for skill development. Providing OJT by supervisors or experienced teammates helps people understand and perform the tasks they need to be successful.

14) Cross-Training
Cross-training provides people a chance to develop new skills and expertise and gain new experiences that stimulate professional growth.

15) Non-profit Volunteering
The late management guru Peter Drucker was a big proponent for volunteering in non-profit organizations. Volunteerism is a classic "win-win" - the non-profits gain value from the volunteers, and the volunteers also benefit. Benefits to volunteers include the chance to network with people outside the company, to use and sharpen existing skills, and the opportunity to develop leadership abilities by actively working with others to help the non-profit pursue its mission of serving its communities.

Seeing people grow personally and professionally is very rewarding. Good luck to you as you work to develop your people!

Wes Friesen, CMDSM, EMCM, MQC, ICP, CCM,CMA, CM, CFM, APP, PHR is the Manager of Revenue Collection & Community Offices for Portland General Electric, a utility in Portland, Oregon that serves over 818,000 customers. Wes teaches university classes and is a featured speaker at national Conferences like National Postal Forum, MailCom, IPMA and XPLOR. He manages the bill production and payment processing teams with the able assistance of supervisors Eric Houger, Tom Laszlo, Gil Rodriguez and Elyssia Lawrence. Wes can be contacted at Wes.Friesen@pgn.com or via his new website (www.wesfriesen.com).