There are numerous calls for greater investment in learning and development schemes, but all too often training proposals are made blindly. Jane Massey provides five ways to improve your organisation’s approach to developing its staff.
1 Training is an investment, so treat it like one
Stop talking in terms of training programmes and start using the language of the board: investment. Training needs to be aligned to the business, helping it to move forwards and achieve agreed goals. If it is not linked to specific business needs it will always be treated as a cost, not an investment.
There needs to be meticulous results planning prior to a programme’s implementation and scrupulous collection of data afterwards.
You wouldn’t make other investments without considering the full implications, so why should training be any different?
2 You need to be 100% serious about evaluation
We are starting to see a new level of professionalism and discipline when it comes to evaluating training, but it is far from widespread.
Post-training assessment is not taken seriously enough and is usually so rudimentary that the data collected is useless in drawing conclusions and making improved investment decisions.
Evaluation is often retrospective, yet outcome indicators need to be set from the start to gain useful results. Unless you’re going to be rigorous, there’s no point. Serious evaluation is not for amateurs.
3 Is leadership training right for your business?
While I agree with the Chartered Insitute of Personnel and Development’s recent acknowledgement that line managers need to discuss training needs with their staff, its call for huge investment in leadership training needs to be questioned.
As an employer, you need to ask yourself: what is the business case for leadership development and what specific measures will it deliver to drive the company forward? If you don’t know the answer, the chances are you’re wasting time and money.
What you may need instead is better management of resources, people and teams. Leadership training won’t make you manage better, it’s an additional domain of competence and should be driving more than the achievement of core business targets.
4 Evaluate the advantages of apprenticeships
Employers need to look carefully at the business benefits of apprentices, as outlined by Lord Sugar in the House of Lords last week. This means looking far beyond the direct costs of employing them and facilitating their ongoing development.
Using low cost as justification for the decision to recruit apprentices is insufficient. Their performance needs to be measured at every level and the data used to encourage further improvement as early as possible.
It is not unreasonable to expect an apprentice to deliver the appropriate level of productivity almost from the outset. This should be tracked alongside learning and job performance standards.
Giving apprentices evidence of the benefit they bring to the business is also likely to help drive their motivation and commitment.
5 You can’t do anything without good data
When implementing training, learning and development schemes, data is your best friend. The board will not accept anecdotal evidence and neither should you.
Collect data along the way and share it. Do you know what made a difference and why? Do the board and the finance director know? Which training changed staff behaviour for the better and which contributed to business goals?
Often, when training is designed to address a particular risk, for example health and safety or money laundering, there is no liaison between risk managers and those responsible for personnel development. However, these compliance issues are ones that training is supposed to address.
Credible data, collected and analysed in a disciplined way, should be disseminated throughout the organisation and used to support further financial decisions to ensure that a return is made.
Jane Massey is chief executive of training evaluation consultancy Abdi.