National anthems

Is
it a big, wide world out there or just a global village? Alison Thomas asks
some overseas institutes to sum up the state of training and development in
their region

AUSTRALIA

Richard
Rawling
National president, Australian Human Resources Institute and chief of HR
& strategy for North Western Health in Melbourne

The
Australian economy is experiencing solid growth, which is flushing out skills
shortages, especially in the IT and services sectors. We are also going through
a period of significant change as blue chip companies undertake major
restructuring to cater for the new imperatives of e-commerce and networking.

Best
practice organisations are focusing increasingly on learning and access to
knowledge in their bid to drive change.

In-house
training departments have been reshaped accordingly and in many cases
outsourced completely.

The
emphasis in vocational training is shifting to priority labour market skills
while in-house efforts centre on cultural change, designed to add value and
enable companies to achieve strategic goals.

The
use of intranets is spreading as a cost-effective way of getting training into
the workplace and delivering information to remote workforces – a key issue
here, where population centres are many kilometres apart. The knock-on effect
for training consultants has been a demand for superior skills as the new
technologies drive a push for excellence in instructional design and delivery.

HONG
KONG

Virginia
Choi
Vice-president, Hong Kong Institute of Human Resource Management and
chairwoman of training and development committee, HKIHRM, director of global
training consultancy Forum Asia

Although
unemployment stands at around 5.6 per cent our economy is recovering from the
currency crisis and the figures for the first quarter of this year show
economic growth of 10.8 per cent.

After
a period of major restructuring, companies are investing in human capital to
equip people for the 21st century.

A
recent IHRM survey of 74 companies, large and small, reveals that globalisation
and IT are high on the agenda of HR and T&D directors.

One
of their priorities is to enhance the IT skills of supervisors and frontline
staff. Another is to improve English language comprehension at all levels, as
they believe language skills are crucial if we are to compete in the global
market. This view is shared by the Hong Kong governor, who is investing heavily
in what we call the “workplace English campaign”.

In
the same survey last year, change management emerged as a major preoccupation,
as companies grappled with the consequences of mergers and acquisitions.

What
jumps out this year is a new emphasis on creativity for middle to senior
management – in other words taking an innovative approach to business problems.

USA

Mark
Van Buren
Director of research, American Society for Training and Development

One
of the things we have observed in the United States over the last five to 10
years is an increasing emphasis on the importance of developing people. This is
borne out by our latest “state of the industry” report, which shows that
expenditure on human capital has grown for three years in succession and the
signs are that this will continue.

That
is important because in the past training has often been subject to close
cost-cutting measures.

It
is particularly encouraging to note a shift towards investing in internal training
resources. This represents a significant cost and suggests long-term commitment
as opposed to the short-term solution of turning to external providers.

Unfortunately,
although most companies believe that the training they do makes a difference,
few have developed consistent methodologies to measure the pay off.

However,
our research into publicly traded organisations demonstrates a clear link
between investment in people and financial returns.

And
while there is still a substantial gap between leading edge companies and other
businesses, the trend across the board is towards an enhanced emphasis on
training as a critical factor in an organisation’s success.

GERMANY

Ute
Graf
Head of membership, HR managers’ network and international affairs,
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Personalführung (the German Association for Personnel
Management)

The
German economy is picking up again and for the first time the upturn is
extending to East Germany. However, unemployment remains a key issue.

The
average rate is around 11 per cent, but it varies widely from region to region
and in some places it is over 20 per cent. This presents a major challenge and
various projects have been launched to equip people with the skills they need
for the modern working environment.

The
shortage of jobs for young people is particularly acute and is being addressed
by a variety of initiatives to encourage companies to increase the number of
apprenticeships they offer.

New
technology presents another challenge. We used to be at the forefront of change
and we are struggling to maintain that edge. Specialist expertise is being
brought in from abroad to make sure we not only jump on the train but travel
with it.

Economic
constraints have led to companies targeting their training more carefully.

Measurement
and evaluation are taken seriously to ensure that training initiatives fulfil
their objectives and bring tangible benefits to business.

Training
and development is seen as an investment but employers want value for money –
which is only natural.

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