Two steps to achieve value when developing employees
In the latest Learning and Development Annual Survey Report by CIPD, it was found that around 60 percent of businesses have difficulties testing and measuring the effectiveness of developing employees. Almost 23 percent of respondents were of the view that learning budgets will be cut, with only 18 percent predicting an increase over the next 12 months.
In Manpower Groups’ Talent Shortage Survey of 2013, it was found that 35 percent of employers surveyed worldwide were experiencing difficulty filling jobs due to lack of available talent, furthermore 54 percent of employers surveyed said that talent shortages impacted on their client-facing abilities to a medium or high degree.
Against such a backdrop, it is vital that developing employees is on the agenda. We all know of course that, traditionally, learning and development is the first casualty in an economic downturn. But faced with such a disparity in available talent, it really doesn’t make sense. One of the reasons I think businesses dismiss their development plans so readily is because of the difficulties over half of businesses surveyed experience in measuring the effectiveness of development programmes.
Many learning professionals rely on evaluation models like Kirkpatrick, which if used properly can give valuable information about learning effectiveness, and indeed if linked to results can show the impact made. This is good practice, but there are two steps missing which are essential if a business owner is to be sure to invest wisely in developing employees.
Predicting the specific and measurable impact of the outcome(s) of developing employees is the first step any business owner should undertake. This essential step must be taken in the early stages of commissioning or analysing the method and scope of the learning required and before the decision to go ahead is made. In other words, what must be different as a result of the learning and development? To invest wisely, the outcomes must be unnegotiable. So for example, training managers on how to manage sick absence might tick some legal boxes, but there is much more at stake, and such learning can be used effectively to drive down the level of absence. Increase the number of wellbeing initiatives, or get people back to work in a more timely way, for example.
Helping people to gain new skills can impact performance in a number of ways such as:
- Raising productivity – speeding up processes, getting more done or eliminating steps;
- Increasing efficiency – reducing the level of resources needed or cost to produce similar or better quality;
- Improving effectiveness – The throughput of a process or impact of behaviours: How quickly the desired result is achieved; measuring the impact of the results, and how much of a difference is being made.
The second but vital step is insisting on challenging and measurable outcomes, targets or objectives for individuals. This means identifying exactly what a difference they will be expected to make after undergoing the training and making each individual accountable for achieving the difference. Too often learning and development is commissioned to improve overall business outcomes, but accountability at an individual level isn’t given, thus making it unclear as to how to test or measure the return on investment.