TRAINING FOR BUSINESS RESULTS
One day, the training manager of a public listed company came up to me and asked, “K C, what would your response be if a director of your company tells you that he does not believe in training because every person hired for the job should already know the job and therefore needs no training?”
There question is surprising, if not shocking, to me but I was too polite to say so as she was probably talking about her own company. I told her to ask that director how many of the people working for him would want to be in the same job for the rest of their life. Chances are very few.
If that’s the case, then whose responsibility would it be to provide career enhancement opportunities to the employees? If it’s the company’s responsibility to provide career development, how would employers upgrade their employees’ skills and knowledge for more or bigger jobs, if not by training?
It is easy to understand why management is reluctant to invest in training if they can’t see business results.
The ignorance of a director of this large Malaysian organization is regrettable. To make matters worse, I don’t think he’s alone. Whilst the Government is emphasizing on the need for the private sector to invest in human resource development by throwing in the double-tax deduction for training as an incentive, very little has happened. Many organizations are still dragging their feet on it.
In a recent report by Japanese industry experts under a programme known as the Asian Cooperation project, several problems relating to two major Malaysian industrial sectors – namely, precision holding and press-die manufacturing – were identified. One of them is “a failure by factory owners to train their employees adequately for fear they will subsequently job-hop to companies offering higher pay.” This is the common short-sightedness of some lesser informed management in Malaysia.
Some companies are spending the money on training, but on haphazard and poorly planned training activities with little results to show in terms of enhancing the quality of the workforce and their performance. However, management cannot be totally blamed for this.
I tend to attribute this gap to the people who understands training, people such as training managers, trainers and training consultants, for failing to sufficiently and professionally communicate, advice, guide, sell or inform the management. Management generally wants to get clear and straightforward answers to one question before they agree to invest in training – “How do we get business results from training?”
Business results occur when skills taught during a training activity are applied on the job, thereby improving job performance.
The emphasis is on business results, and not on just having done “20 programs this year,” as one training manager responded to a question on his achievements for the year. Results – not activities. It is easy to understand the reluctance to invest in training if management can’t see results.
Business results occur when skills taught during a training activity are applied on the job, thereby improving job performance. To ensure that the organization gets business results form its training investment, the following should be considered:
1. Training activities must be linked to business needs and not just to the latest and hottest seminar in town. I’ve actually heard training manager of a major local bank boast to me that his organization is the first to take all the major and latest training programmes to come from the United States!
Training must originate from business needs – for instance, a bank’s need to increase revenue by getting the tellers to cross-sell more-and not form just responding to intermittent training requests without sufficient analysis to determine the reason for that request.
For example, a request like “Can you send the telephone operator for a telephone techniques course?” is not a need but suggested solution. The real business need could be to reduce customer complaints about having to wait a long time for calls to be picked up. If that operator has to answer 2,500 calls a day, the problem is not necessary a lack of telephone techniques – it could be a situation of work overload and training alone might not help.
2. Training must be performance based. Once business needs are identified, then next step is to identify what specific performance needs to be improved in order to either overcome a business problem – for instance, too many rejects form customers; or fulfill a business opportunity – for instance, staff to be able to sell a new line of products.
Proper training identification (TNI) must be carried out in order to provide valuable inputs to ensure that the training programme is designed to improve performance.
3. Work environment and the learning experience must support each other. Too often, training carried out results in the trainee going back to a working environment that does not support the learning experiences she has just gone through. A typical example is the employee who went for a seminar on motivation, got “excited” and return back to working environment that regularly demotivates him. In six months, she’s back to her original self.
One reason could be that the existing system, corporate culture or the superiors do not support the trained employee in using her newly acquired skills. In many instances, a lack of follow-through by the superior contributed to this failure. The other could be that the training programme was designed without sufficient pre-analysis that would enable the programme to be customized to relate to actual work situations. WAW