I am so excited because this article of mine was published in the latest Training Australia magazine.
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Check your organisation’s pulse – are you an Investor in People?
Denise Meyerson, Director, Management Consultancy International
It seems like most learning and development practitioners have no difficulty in finding the right places to implement training interventions. But how effective are such interventions? Should management simply spend the money sending staff on a harbour cruise?
Here’s my challenge to learning and development practitioners. Spend a few moments giving thought to a recent training intervention that you either coordinated or delivered. Formulate a single sentence that captures the essence of the goal of this intervention, for example “The report writing training was designed to …”. Next, create a further sentence that clearly describes the impact the training had on the individual or team. Start with these words: “The training resulted in these changes in the level of skills or behaviour in the business:…”. This last sentence should avoid mentioning how much the training participants enjoyed themselves or how wonderful the facilitator was.
It is the follow up evaluation of the effectiveness of training where so many learning and development practitioners trip up. Like any management professionals, we should ask ourselves if the results of our training are both value for money and properly aligned to the goals of the organization.
The potential wastage of resources on poorly developed training interventions is huge. In Australia, the average spend per person on training is $450*. This is in addition to the $2.5 billion in federal funding of the apprenticeship and traineeships schemes this financial year. Add to those figures the $280.6 million set aside by the federal government for skills vouchers and we can begin to understand the massive scale of L&D spending and the potential for squandering these resources on misconceived efforts.
There is little research conducted on the specific impact that training has on business results. As professionals, could we hold our heads high when discussing the impact that our interventions have in terms of concrete business outcomes?
As a training consultant, my mantra is if training doesn’t lead to change, why do it at all?
It would be far better to spend the money on a cruise around Sydney Harbour than engage training where it isn’t needed or appropriate. Not only will it cost you less but I can guarantee that it will also lead to far greater levels of employee motivation and engagement!
Traditionally the development cycle in learning and development has always been “plan, prepare, deliver and assess”. However, this framework is not enough in linking the specific learning generated by training to business performance. A far more useful tool to implement is the ‘Investors in People’ standard. This is the only recognised globally recognised HR. standard used to determine whether an organisation’s performance improves due to a planned approach to people development. The standard is available on the Investors in People website: www.investorsinpeople.co.uk.
The Investors in People benchmark provides us with a framework to continuously evaluate our training and determine what difference our learning strategy makes to the both the participants and the organisation as a whole.
In the UK, over one-third of the workforce work in organizations which use the Investors in People standard. Research has shown the profitability increases that these organisations experience – a jump in annual profit of £353 per employee attributed to Investors in People.*2
Let’s look at Investors in People a little more closely. The standard has 3 main principles; ‘plan’, ‘do’ and ‘review’.
On the Investors in People website, you’ll find a useful tool to help you diagnose your organisation to determine whether you meet the evidence requirements and criteria of the standard. There is no charge for using this tool and it allows you to conduct an internal survey of where stakeholders feel the business stands against the benchmark’s requirements.
Here are some further challenges I have for learning and development professionals who are keen to ensure that their training delivers this elusive ‘return on investment’:
1. Know the budget that is spent on training and express this as a percentage of payroll.2. Start changing the types of conversations that take place around training. Avoid talking about delegates who had positive feedback or training that "all went well". Of course this is important, but it’s more urgent to find out what difference the training made in situ. Once this has been investigated, learn to express it in a few sentences for example "As a result of the intervention, we increased sales by twenty-seven percent” or, “There were better customer feedback reports” or, “we noticed that the team worked more cohesively..". Such success stories need not be strictly quantitative as other factors may provide equally useful information to management.
3. Conduct the ‘Investors in People’ diagnostic and have a strong sense of where you currently stand against the criteria of the standard. Understand the areas of your operation which are close to meeting requirements and areas in which you have further work to do.
4. Set in place some action items that allow you to move closer to the benchmark. Determine realistic goals – it’s no use throwing your hands up in desperation believing that you are too far off the mark to even get started!
5. Never go to a budgeting meeting with a begging-bowl - asking for more money for training. Set yourself the objective of having so many positive stories illustrating the impact of training on the organisation that purse-holders are keen to provide the funds.
In summary, all learning and development practitioners know that investing in people makes commercial sense. It’s now our task to prove this in a more concrete manner. The Investors in People framework provides a way of monitoring your progress. Remember: What gets measured, gets done! Investors in People can help us make these measurements to guide your journey forward.
* This figure is quoted in the latest survey of the retail industry 2006
*2 This is figure quoted in extensive research available on www.investorsinpeople.co.uk
Denise Meyerson PhD
Denise is the Managing Director of Management Consultancy International, a leading provider of training solutions and an advising organisation for the Investors in People standard. Visit our website on www.mci.edu.au