Institutions across the globe, profit or non – for – profit, private or public, constantly strive towards improved performance and exceeding stakeholders’ expectations on a sustainable basis.
One of the ways organisations have tried to achieve these corporate objectives is by ensuring that it has the right complements of human capital, who are equipped with the right knowledge, skills, attitude and competence to perform at their optimal capacity. Learning and Development professionals have risen up to this business need, by providing necessary supports, through various interventions such as coaching, mentoring, on-the-job and off-the-job training as well as other capacity development initiatives. Although, top management is usually has aspirations of having in its arsenal, a highly resourceful and distinguishable intellectual capital – going by the popular cliché ‘human capital is our most valuable asset’ – economic realities often tend to constrain commitment to this goal. Many of us may be familiar with the following shots from senior executives to the Human Resource Management/Learning and Development teams: “Show me the bottom line impact of the training budget for last year” “What is the return on the organisation’s investment in training in the last financial year?” “Why should the business commit this X amount to staff training and development this year?” “Employee training and development is merely an expense item in the profit and loss account, with no clear-cut value-add” No doubt, these are valid statements and expectations from the business, which every Learning and Development practitioners are always searching for appropriate responses to, every now and then. Although, the literature is replete with well-thought out models and metrics on training impact assessments, my experience over the years have shown that many other factors affect the effective realisation of the expected returns on training investment, beyond the ROI calculations, which learning and development practitioners should take cognisance of.
Prominent amongst these factors is the individual’s desire and passion for self-improvement, which
according to John Maxwell, is the first step in improving everything else. If this trait is lacking in any trainee, the possibility of deriving returns on training investment will surely suffer a set-back, as the trainee would practically not be motivated to continuously search for performance improvement in the work setting. The next often neglected factor is trainee engagement. Going by the popular saying ‘you can only force a horse to the river but cannot force it to drink from its water.’ This indicates that learning and development professionals must always check that the trainee feels the training is worthwhile. Without this major step, the learning intervention could be a mere waste of time, efforts and scarce resources, where the trainee only show up in class to mark his/her presence, eat, drink, have fun and collects certificate at the end of the training! The discussion between the supervisor and trainee is very critical to ensuring that the trainee learns something new and that he/she sees it as relevant to his/her job role and career development. This step will also ensure that trainee is committed to taking actions from what he/she has learnt. In the course of administering more than 120 different training programmes, I have witnessed occasions where participants on open programmes either do not even know the title of the programme they are attending until they are presented with the list of courses that are running during that week, while others would have sat through the class only to discover that the course is not relevant to them! In some other instances, participants have had to contact their office for a change of course, having discovered that another course, which is running concurrently with the one they were initially scheduled for, appeared more relevant to them! How can these sloppy arrangements help trainees properly focus on learning and the bigger picture i.e. impact on organisation’s performance? There are two possibilities here. It is either trainees are nominated based on personal dispositions or whims of nominating officers or perhaps, a proper competency based needs assessment was not conducted.