Businesses are increasingly looking for new ways to measure the return on investment of training programmes.
The summer slowdown in the UAE has many executives strategising to make better use of their employees’ time. One trend that is surfacing among managers is the implementation of corporate training programmes during these less productive months. Biz-ability is one company aiming to capitalise on this trend by offering training programmes tailored to be intense yet shorter on hours, as many employees would prefer to not spend their time at all-day events.
Bev Mileham, General Manager at biz-group, says its training arm Biz-ability has seen increased demand from the business community during the summer, as they plan to better prepare staff for the busy season ahead. “Many companies have recognised that slower months of business such as the summer are a good time to train their staff as business operations are less frenetic and employees have more time to learn new skills. Following increased demand for summer training services, biz-ability launched the Light on Learning programme that includes intense and hands-on sessions to increase organisational performance and is a cost-effective solution to enthuse and energise employees during a sluggish business period.”
Light on Learning offers a choice of 12 training modules, suitable for employees, supervisors, middle and senior managers. The sessions range from improving internal and external communication, to strategy setting and how to achieve better performance from both individuals and teams. Each session is conducted in two or four hour workshops and although intensive, biz-ability says the focus on one particular skill set coupled with practical work-based assignments improves knowledge retention and applicability for its clients.
Despite the fact that companies continue to spend a lot of time and money training their professionals, many in the industry still question the return on investment for such programmes. Larger companies often offer these programmes to their employees with the intention of incorporating corporate social responsibility practices into their business culture, without an actual system in place to measure their effectiveness. A recent study by The ROI Institute finds that 60% to 90% of all job-related skills and knowledge acquired in training programmes do not end up getting implemented on the job.
FranklinCovey Middle East recently hosted an seminar that addressed this very topic. The Knowledge Cafe event, which brought together human resources managers and directors from a variety of UAE companies, shed light on the reasons why companies are not seeing real results as a result of training. Historically, training was a much simpler process as it involved teaching employees specific skills that were to be used on the job manually. In today’s business climate, we are paid to use our minds as 70% of employees can be categorised as knowledge workers. These workers rely on their emotional intelligence to make the decisions that will impact business.
During the event, Janne Rennie, Director of Delivery Effectiveness at FranklinCovey Middle East, raised the issue of follow up on the part of learning providers and businesses. She says that any organisation that provides training should be working with their clients in this area by offering post-session assessment and support.
“We have to find the connection between knowledge and performance. The bottom line is that organisations traing people because they want to impact their behaviour. Only when that behaviour becomes habit is when you see real change happening.” Rennie points to time-management as one of the biggest challenges for the modern-day business, as employees spend a large proportion of their working hours on activities that do not correlate with the business’ overall goals and productivity.
“We have to take a closer look at the things we do everyday in our jobs. Answering the phone and responding to e-mails and
these type of tasks are part of our roles, but we need to be more selective with our time, as our attention is very easily diverted,” says Rennie. She also adds that most organisations who choose to do training usually stop the process and lose focus right after the courses are completed, and don’t have a plan in place that would asses the outcome or allow their professionals to implement the skills they learned.
With attrition rates still a major issue for corporations globally, many HR professionals are asking the question: what if spend time and money on training, and they leave? Rennie says the real question they should be asking is what if they do not train them and these employees end up staying? The best practices she has seen among companies has been of linking overall objectives to the actual learning taking place. She also points out that incentives are not always financial and that employees today, especially younger professionals, just want to feel valued, and see training as a part of that.
Another important fact surrounding the effectiveness of corporate training is that certain sectors like hospitality and tourism are more conducive to measuring its success. Dubai Ladies Club does extensive regular training in a number of categories for its staff, including a full customer service excellence programme. Madeleine Stocks, Wellness Manager for the Club finds the training invaluable, and an effective way of changing and improving employee behaviour “
“We measure customerand staff satisfaction/feedback which are great indicators of change. We have quizzes and small in-house refreshers based on the trainings where we can assess the knowledge retention. Through observing daily operations post-training we are usually able to identify the results. Also ageneral analysis of the attitude/motivation levels of the team can be good indication,” says Stocks. “The most significant change was reflected in the shift of an entire team’s confidence and attitude. I could see the change in each individual and to see it collectively as a team it was quite overwhelming.”
In the case of SMEs, training is not always an option as many do not have a big enough budget. Also, with a smaller number of employees, its crucial for managers to look at who they select for training and what they want to gain out of the process. Professionals from smaller companies at the FranklinCovey event shared their experiences in this area. A number of them actually send a handful of employees to do training on stagnated schedules, and those employees end up sharing knowledge and skills with the rest of their team.
Biz-group, an SME itself, has seen interest in its business grow over the years as the business landscape has changed drastically evolved in this region. After evolving itself and expanding its range of training and learning services, the company made the top 20 of the Dubai SME 100, announced earlier this year. Mileham credits the rapid growth to the unique makeup of employees in this part of the world. “The UAE and Middle East have a very multi-cultural and dynamic workforce which requires the trainer to have a style and approach that is adaptable and sensitive to diverse cultural audiences. Our consultants have reported a higher level of engagement, enthusiasm and a genuine desire to learn in this region, in comparison to trainings they have conducted in the West.”
In terms of measuring return on investment, biz-group implements a number of methods that depend on each type of training conducted. “ We use everything from measuring against key performance indicators, to 180 degree surveys, to getting feedback from employees’ line managers. For many of our long-term classroom training programmes, we require participants to complete real life assignments in the workplace.”
Mileham stresses the need for executives and managers to change the old-school way of thinking about training, and look at the big picture to effectively measure success.” In any business activity, if you are not able to measure results or output, you cannot completely gauge the benefit of doing it. It is absolutely important to first establish effective measurement tools before embarking on any training programme and then ensure that corrective measures are taken post training. This is not only important for our clients but integral to our own team performance and motivation.”
Before joining SME Advisor, I worked as a producer/reporter for Forbes Media in New York. I obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and International Studies at the University of South Florida in the US. I am currently in Dubai working as Sub-Editor for SME Advisor Middle East, which is a business magazine published by CPI. You can follow me on Twitter: @joumanasaad or @SMEadvisorME and (Joumana Saad) or (SME Advisor) on LinkedIn.