Brooks C. Mendell, Ph.D.

    Author of: Loving Trees is Not Enough:

                      Communication Skills for Natural Resource Professionals

Click Here to purchase this book through

About the Author Keynote Speaking & Workshops Free Articles Upcoming Events Contact the Author

Book Excerpt

From Chap. 3 on Negotiation...
Telephone negotiations, like telephone interviews, tend to be shorter and may produce additional misunderstandings. Risk comes with speed. Without the benefit of body language and eye contact, both parties have difficulty perceiving inclinations or commitment.

read more    

Free Newsletter

Sign up to receive our free monthly newsletter with valuable information and articles of interest.

sign up    

Number 8, August 2007



Our topic:

Assessing the Training Needs of Your Team*


If you manage people, you are a human resource professional. As a manager, part of your job includes deciding on the combination of skills and experiences required to meet the objectives of your organization.  Then you must determine if those skills currently exist on your team.  If there is a mismatch between what your firm needs and what your team can do, then action is required.

Traditionally, firms developed skills through educating on the job, rotating employees into different roles, and through classroom training.  However, pressure on time and budgets has prompted questions about training alternatives that can reduce costs or help teams move faster.  Therefore, what alternatives to formal training exist and when might they be appropriate?  A partial list of alternatives includes coaching and feedback, information resources, and performance aids.

1.  Coaching and feedback produces two desirable consequences:  first, they reinforce desired performance. Second, they enable wanted behaviors.  A common reason individuals fail to perform in their jobs is that they simply do not know what is expected of them.  If a member of your team does something well or does something poorly, whether it is a timber cruise, wildlife survey or project analysis, tell them. They want to know!

2.  Information resources include manuals, handbooks, teleconferences and online references.  Is a formal training class required when a one-hour CD or a reference manual would suffice?  For example, a forest agency called us about a live training session on a specific financial topic.  However, based on the specific needs of their team, we found that a 90-minute conference call and a customized packet of critical information resources satisfied the needs of the client sooner, more directly and less expensively.

3.  Performance aids help individuals perform their jobs.  They often represent simple reminders to people for things they already know how to do.  An example would be the pre-flight checklist used by airplane pilots.  In forestry, performance aids include flagged lines in the woods, log truck signs on roads near active harvest operations, and day-time running lights on our vehicles. Multiple aids exist that eliminate the need for excess training. 

While other factors can also affect performance – such as reward systems and the structure of the organization – sometimes training is suitable and most effective.  For example, CPR/first aid training and driver safety training are two areas that save lives and save money.   Driving is often our biggest exposure and insurance a growing cost; training helps in both areas. 

When training addresses a specific need to fulfill a business objective, it becomes a no-brainer.  At the end of the day, was the need satisfied?  Did the training provide the skills needed to fulfill the specific objective?  In some instances you may not need to train employees to fill a skill gap.  Alternatives such as coaching, information resources, and performance aids may provide as much value to your team as training without the added cost.


*This edition includes excerpts from “Here’s How to Assess Training and Education Needs in a Forest Business or Organization” by Brooks Mendell and Amanda Hamsley from the September 2007 edition of “The Forestry Source.”


The Loving Trees Newsletter.  Copyright © 2007 Brooks C Mendell.  All rights reserved. We welcome sharing this newsletter in whole or in part if properly cited and attributed.