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Best Practice in Staff Training Processes


People performance is a critical enabling factor that influences the potential of an organisation to achieve its objectives. Successful organisations ensure that they maintain an environment which enables the full potential of their people to be realised. They also ensure that they align their staff management objectives with the organisation’s objectives.

Training is an important activity undertaken to ensure employees at all levels have the necessary skills to carry out their roles effectively and to ensure the achievement of the organisations objectives. Of fundamental importance is the identification of the value that training adds to the performance of the organisation.

Specifically this relates to how the organisation decides what training is needed by its staff, how the training is carried out, how the organisation evaluates the effectiveness of its education and training activities and what processes are put in place to improve the delivery and effectiveness of education and training programs.

The management of the organisation want to know:

  • what training is required
  • how training should be delivered.
  • how the training improves the performance of the organisation

Staff expect:

  • targeted and job related training (for now and the future) to equip them to meet the expectations of the organisation
  • defined outcomes as a result of training
  • quality assurance of training materials and delivery techniques
  • value for time spent in training

At the time of the writing of this paper, few organisations in the parks industry:

  • had a quantifiable means of measuring organisational performance outcomes
  • had measured the current competence of employees
  • had agreed arrangements in place to meet all their staff training needs.
  • had a formal strategy for addressing staff training so that maximum cost benefits are attained from training
  • had a quantifiable means of assessing the on-ground outcomes of staff training
  • are innovative with regard to methods of making training delivery more efficient
  • use training systems and expertise available in the wider training industry
  • had accurate costings relating to training (salary, training delivery etc)

Over the past 5 years there have been dramatic changes in the training arena. Many companies who once conducted their own training now recognise that training is not their core business and utilize the services of the fast developing training industry.

This move is in keeping with the Federal Government Training Reform Agenda, aimed at increasing the competitiveness of Australian industry on the international market. The main outcomes from this agenda have been the development of National competency standards and associated training curriculum for a number of industry groups.

Best practice in training staff for park management is required because both Federal and State Governments now require park management agencies to:

  • focus on their core business
  • identify key performance indicators and associated priority outcomes
  • be accountable for the delivery of priority outcomes and direct expenditure accordingly
  • apply sound business planning principles to program planning and budgeting
  • evaluate alternative means of service delivery (such as outsourcing)
  • enhance the sustainable management of the natural and cultural resources of parks
  • provide a high standard of customer service and facilities
  • continually improve performance (both financial performance and service delivery)
  • have competent and effective staff.

Park customers require parks agencies to:

  • manage the natural and cultural resources of the park using the best possible techniques
  • provide excellent customer service
  • provide a range of recreational opportunities
  • manage financial resources effectively and efficiently
  • have competent and efficient staff

This paper will discuss and explore:

    1. Best practice in staff training processes for “park agencies”
    2. The use of benchmarking as a tool in establishing best practice.

Relevant terms are defined as:

Staff training: “the process of developing the skills of employees”

Competence:“the ability to deliver a service to a prescribed minimum standard”


2.1 Methodology

In 1995, ANZECC commenced the National Benchmarking and Best Practice Programs aimed at five key areas. The (then) Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Victoria took the lead responsibility for determining the best practice framework for staff training. The objective of the project was to determine current best practice in training processes to assist agenices to develop training programs to meet their needs.

The project scope covered:

  • an examination of guidelines and procedures to guide workplace performance
  • an examination of standards of performance (competency standards)
  • training and development programs
    1. strategic framework for program development
    2. industrial context (relationship of training to pay/promotion etc)
    3. identification of learning outcomes, assessment criteria and delivery standards
    4. delivery arrangements (in-house or external)
    5. assessment practices
    6. relationship to formal training structures (State or National)
  • monitoring of training outcomes (improved performance, cost-benefit analysis etc.

The project was to result in a report which could be used by member agencies of ANZECC to introduce best practice training processes and to facilitate the development of quality standards (and common competencies) for training of staff involved in the management of National Parks and Protected areas. The report was also to contribute to the development of national training standards through NCRMIRG.

The methodology used was to:

    1. Conduct initial research into training processes to produce an appropriate survey instrument.
    2. Communicate with, visit with or arrange joint meetings with member agencies of ANZECC to:
      • apply the survey
      • observe training initiatives and process
    3. Communicate with or visit external organisations with a record of innovation in delivering training programs
    4. Prepare a best practice report in consultation with participating agencies

There were several project limitations. The project brief did not include a comparison of the content of training programs(as this has already been done by the Natural and Cultural Resources Management Industry Reference Group in its Curriculum Review) but rather required the examination of staff training processes from a strategic viewpoint. The project leader’s time was limited to approximately one week and the report was limited to key points.

Figure 1 Location of interviews

Location Organisation
Adelaide South Australian Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Sydney New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service
Melbourne Tasmanian Department of Environment and Land Management, Victorian Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (name at the time of interview), Australian Fire Authorities Council
Phone survey Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage, ACT Department of Urban Services – Parks and Conservation.

2.2 Best Practice in Staff Training Processes

Initial research was conducted into findings of previous benchmarking projects on staff training and into current concepts of best practice in staff training. It revealed that most organisations measure and assess training inputs rather than training outputs (or how the training was conducted rather than the benefit gained through training). No park agencies and very few other organisations maintain thorough accounting records of staff training and are able to conduct a comprehensive cost benefit analysis of training effectiveness (although some agencies have conducted a cost-benefit analysis of individual courses. Cost benefit analysis is undertaken in the tertiary education sector but the process used is not valid for measuring staff training in organisations for whom training is not core business.

3.1.1 Organisation’s vision, mission and key performance indicators.

The organisation’s vision, mission and key performance indicators are determined and programs to meet these objectives are planned. The period over which these apply varies with individual organisations. A common factor is that they are reviewed annually as a part of the business/budget planning process.

As the performance of staff is a major influence on organisational performance, it is important that the training process is closely linked with the business planning process.

3.1.2 Identification of required competencies for program delivery

The organisation’s key performance indicators (or critical success factors) set a standard against which the performance of the organisation is measured. Programs to meet these standards are developed.

The organisation must have access to specific competencies to effectively deliver the required programs and these are determined. Routine competencies required by individual staff are included.

Looking ahead to the long term achievement of the organisation’s vision and mission, competencies required to deliver anticipated work programs in the future are also identified

3.1.3 Identification of current competence of workforce

Having determined the competencies required to meet its objectives, the organisation then determines the competencies that exist within its workforce. These are obtained through two means – through an analysis of the current performance of staff (annual performance review) and through the identification of the current skill levels staff.

Current performance of staff

Most organisations now have a performance review process through which the current performance of staff is assessed. Individual staff and workgroups are now required to deliver defined outcomes. Achievement of satisfactory outcomes usually (but not always) indicates a satisfactory level of competence in the task. The non-achievement of outcomes may be attributed to a number of factors. Lack of competence is one factor (amongst others) which may have caused poor performance.

A usual part of the performance review process is the identification (by the staff member or their supervisor) of competencies yet to be attained and a plan for their attainment.

Assessment of current competence.

For the organisation to effectively manage the deployment of their human resources, it is necessary to assess the current competencies held by staff. Stored on a data base, this information is then readily available for use when assigning tasks.

The best means of maintaining this data base is to utilize the type of system recommended through the National Training Reform Agenda, where competencies are defined, staff assessed against these and the information is recorded on a data base

Assessment of current competence is only effective if the defined competencies have a “standard of performance” against which the capabilities of the staff can be assessed. This type of assessment is “criterion based” where the subjectivity of the assessment process is reduced. The process must be well managed and the data base kept current.

The maintenance and use of such a data base has two purposes. If the current competence of staff is ascertained prior to delivery of programs, the likelihood of poor performance in program delivery, as a result of lack of competence, is reduced. In addition, the assigning of staff to tasks for which they are not competent may have legal ramifications (for example, Occupational Health and Safety breaches) at a later stage.

3.1.4 Identification of competency gap.

Once the competencies held by the workforce are determined, they are measured against those required by the organisation.

A gap is identified between the required competencies of the organisation and the existing competencies of its workforce. Traditionally this was considered to be the organisation’s “training needs”. Nowadays a wider range of options for closing this gap are considered.

3.1.5 Plan for bridging competency gap

The organisation identifies the means by which it intends to obtain the competencies identified by the gap between the required organisational competencies and those held in the existing workforce. This is usually called a workforce management plan.

Options for obtaining the required competencies include outsourcing, job redesign or redistribution, recruitment or the training and development of existing staff. Factors influencing the selection of the appropriate option are the cost-benefit analysis, current management constraints and the current Government direction with regard to workforce management.

The organisation also needs to look beyond the current budget/business planning cycle to the long term achievement of its vision and mission. It needs to plan to have the necessary competencies (either within or outside the current workforce) for the delivery of future programs (succession planning). This information is invaluable to staff when making personal development/career choices

3.1.6 Organisation’s training needs

The organisation’s training needs are derived from the above process. They are the required competencies of the organisation, not held by the current staff, for which the training of current staff has been determined as the best means of obtaining them.

Training needs are identified and priorities determined as a part of the organisation’s normal business planning process and as such are reviewed annually.


For the organisation’s training needs to be met efficiently and effectively, there needs to be a clear strategy which addresses the allocation of resources to provide the training. This strategy indicates the level of commitment of the organisation to meet its training needs. Without this statement and a commitment from senior management, the issue of resourcing often arises to become the major impediment to the organisation satisfactorily meeting its training needs.

Training resources can be categorised into financial resources, physical resources and human resources.

3.2.1 Financing the training

Determining “who pays” for the training development and delivery is important and clarification of this issue “up-front” will reduce the incidence of later issues arising.

When preparing business plans/budgets, the responsibility for the delivery of the organisation’s programs is allocated to a particular part of the organisation. This part of the organisation should also ensure that the required training for the delivery of the organisation’s program is determined and funding for training allocated appropriately.

The continuing debate within a number of the ANZECC agencies relating to “corporate” versus “technical” training can be resolved by the application of this model. Where the training need is one identified by an individual or their supervisor, and it relates to a routine part of the person’s job, then the funding for training should be built into the budget for that job.

Where the training need is identified by management and is one which is aimed to impart a change across the organisation, such as the need to train people following the introduction of new technology or a cultural change, then the funding for training should be built into the budget for introducing the change.

Budget issues can arise when corporate change training programs are imposed without making the appropriate funding arrangements.

3.2.2 Physical resources

Physical resources required for training include the training materials (curriculum, lesson plans, videos, self paced packages etc) and the physical environment for the delivery of formal training.

It must be recognised that training is not the core business of most organisations and substantial investment in the development of training materials and training facilities is not considered a wise investment.

Fortunately, in recent years, training has become an established growth industry of its own. In most situations it is now not necessary for the organisation to invest in the development of training material or training facilities as there is a wide range of resources available through organisations for whom training IS core business. These include other like organisations, TAFE colleges, universities, local schools, local community training organisations and the increasing number of registered and non-registered private training providers and consultants.

The best way of obtaining the necessary physical resources (materials, facilities etc) for training is to obtain them on a needs basis. By integrating the organisation’s training requirements with those of the wider training community, training becomes more efficient and duplication of effort is reduced.

3.2.3 Human resources

Best practice organisations have a culture of continuous learning and are clear about the level of staff involvement expected in the training process. Rather than being the responsibility of a designated training department, training is “everybody’s responsibility”.

A primary motivator for individuals to accept this responsibility is “need”. Through the competency assessment, the individual has identified a need for training in the routine aspects of their work and is more likely to accept the responsibility for organising or participating in training to meet that need.

For corporate change training, the individual’s need has not been identified and it should be remembered that that person is therefore less likely to be motivated to organise or participate in the required training. In this case it is unrealistic to expect staff to drive their own involvement.

Best practice organisations establish a culture where the individual is responsible to a large extent for identifying their own training needs and organising/enrolling in the appropriate training. Such a culture requires the support of a relevant system.

The embodiment of “learning organisation” culture does not negate the need for training roles and responsibilities to be clearly defined. For the organisation’s training needs to be accurately identified and the training resources available in the wider training industry to be effectively integrated, an appropriate training specialist or specialist team is required to “manage” training.

The training specialist/team will be able to provide staff with adequate systems and information for them to be able to:

– integrate training with the organisation’s business planning/budget development process

– identify their own training needs and those of their staff

– access a range of relevant training options

– develop individual training plans based on identified training needs and career aspirations.


Best practice for the development and delivery of training has been well documented. The model below has widespread use throughout the training industry and is used by the National Training Reform Agenda.

3.3.1 Training needs

The identification of training needs was identified in Section 3.1. Training needs are identified in terms that are behavioural (measurable or quantifiable). Cultural change objectives are also quantified so that their achievement can be measured.

3.3.2 Modular training framework

For each identified competency there is a training module which will train staff in the necessary skills and knowledge to be able to meet the standard prescribed for that competency.

A module specification (the written specification of training outcomes, assessment methods and delivery modes) exists for each module to ensure that it is delivered to a prescribed minimum standard. Module specifications are regularly reviewed to ensure that they match the training requirements of the relevant competency standard.

The training is accredited, where possible, by a State or National training authority. Accreditation provides quality assurance for content, delivery and assessment. The employee gains formal recognition and other benefits for the training completed.

Training delivery is through appropriate providers. If the training delivery is to be contracted out then the training specification is included as a contract specification. Providers are regularly evaluated for effectiveness and cost efficiency of delivery.

3.3.3 Flexible delivery arrangements

The training is located as close to the workplace in order to reduce the amount of time spent in travel and off the job. It is delivered in conditions as close as possible to the normal work situation to ensure relevance of the training to the job.

The more flexible modes of delivery, such as distance learning packages (self paced), open learning schemes and computer based training packages are used. The different learning styles and speeds of individuals are catered for.

The relevance of the content and delivery standards are monitored against the module specification.

Delivery is by instructors who are trained as trainers and are also experienced in the subject matter.

3.3.4 Assessment of learning outcomes

Assessment of the individual’s achievement of the learning outcomes (as prescribed in the specification) is conducted during and following the learning process. Assessment is criterion based and is applied only by those who are competent in its use and who are authorised by the organisation to conduct assessments.


The trainee is given the opportunity to practice using the new skills on the job under supervision by the supervisor or an appropriate mentor. The complexity of the work situation where the new skills are to be applied is managed so that the application progresses from the simple to the complex. Problems in the application of the new competencies are addressed at an early stage.

A final assessment of the application of the new competencies occurs during the performance review phase of program delivery where the delivery of the required job outcomes, to the required standard, is assessed.

Where work does not meet the agreed standards, the reason for this shortfall is sought. If lack of competence is the reason, the extent of training required to become competent is determined and the person either referred to further practice under the guidance of a supervisor or mentor or the workforce management planning process revisited.


Organisations who are leaders in training have the following characteristics:

  • Senior management understanding of and support for the role training plays in the overall business context.
  • A vision, mission and key performance indicators.
  • A formal link between training and the business planning process (priorities, funding and responsibility).
  • A training specialist employed to integrate organisational training requirements with the services provided by the external training industry.
  • Defined competency standards and assessment system.
  • A “workforce management strategy” which addresses how to bridge the “competency gap”.
  • Use a modular approach to meet specific training needs (eg National Training Framework).
  • Use flexible delivery methods and measure learning outcomes at the end of the training.
  • Appraise application of competencies on-the-job (performance appraisal system).
  • Evaluate the benefit training provides to both the individual and to the organisation.


The following are case studies of the application of best practice in training processes and have been selected from a range of suitable case studies.



The Department of Environment and Natural Resources, South Australia has introduced a Performance Management Program for all Departmental employees as a part of its overall framework for organisational change.

The Performance Management Program aims for continuous corporate performance improvement through the following process:

The individual’s Performance Management Program is directly linked to the Department’s broad strategic goals, the Group’s (Division) objectives and the District/Branch’s action plans. Performance is assessed at each level on delivery of outcomes.

Within the Performance Management Plans, responsibility for delivery of outcomes and for determining and acquiring work skills is clearly defined and documented

Line managers are required to:

  • help staff to identify the skill and knowledge required to do their job effectively
  • support staff to establish and meet their individual/team development plan

Individuals are responsible for:

  • identifying the skills, knowledge and support they need to do their job effectively
  • work out an individual/team development plan that is linked to performance
  • review the plan regularly.

Assessment of training outcomes is based on delivery of required job outcomes. Funding for training is program based.



The National Parks Service (Department of Natural Resources and Environment, Victoria) has developed a framework to deal with the routine training of all staff.

In the absence of a set of relevant National competency standards, a comprehensive set of in-house competency standards have been developed covering all aspects of work within the Service. The standards were developed from existing Departmental procedural documents which prescribed the standard of most work within the service. They also related to existing relevant National competency standards such as those from the Tourism and Hospitality industry, the Public Administration sector and the Fire industry.

The competency standards were aligned with the Departments Performance and Remuneration Management (PaRM) system and with the Australian Standards Framework. Where possible, the “standard” referred to an existing NPS or NR+E procedure or guideline.

All staff were surveyed against the standards – selecting those that applied to their job and career aspirations and then, in conjunction with colleagues and supervisor, compared their current performance with that required by the standards. The end result of the process was an individual training plan listing a range of developmental activities the person was required to take responsibility for plus a list of training needs requiring external facilitation (ie courses).

The results of the survey were entered on a spreadsheet and, in consultation with management, priorities for training determined for each park, local areas and the State.



The developments of the Australian Fire Authorities Council (AFAC) have, since 1992, been at the forefront of training developments resulting from the National Training Reform Agenda.

AFAC has developed a comprehensive set of generic competency standards which apply to all work conducted within the fire agencies of Australia, including metropolitan, rural volunteer and land management agencies such as the member agencies of ANZECC.

The competency standards are arranged in six levels ranging from recruit level to executive level and align with levels 2 to 7 of the Australian Standards Framework.

Individual agencies determine the selection of competency standards which apply to their personnel, recognising that the needs of individuals within each organisation vary according to their geographic location and job requirements.

Aligned with five levels of the competency standards are five Nationally accredited courses ranging from Certificate II to Advanced Diploma levels. The courses can be delivered in their entirety or by individual modules, of which there are over 200.

Training can only be delivered by registered providers and each fire agency either gained registration, formed a partnership with a TAFE college or arranged to contract in an appropriate provider. Instructors must have completed an instructor module or equivalent and have met the requirements of the relevant module.

Recognising that the outcomes of training, rather than the input, are most important, a comprehensive National assessor program was established to ensure that assessment practices both within and across agencies were comparable.

The assessment process includes “Recognition of Prior Learning” or RPL where a person who can demonstrate current expertise in the content of a module may be granted credit for that module.

One of the most significant parts of the program is the development of distance learning packages for a range of modules. These packages mean that the training can be delivered in the workplace without added costs for travel, accommodation and time lost from work.

The courses were developed with a substantial consultation process and are regularly reviewed for relevance.

The development of the competency standards, accredited courses and the distance packages bring significant benefits to the fire industry. Firefighters from a range of agencies are now closer to using similar language and techniques and their qualifications are portable across agencies. The material is flexible in design and is intended to be used on a needs basis by individual fire agencies.



The Department of Parks, Wildlife and Heritage in Tasmania has been involved in the development of a competency-based course of training for park rangers. The project was conducted by the Department of Industrial Relations and Train

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