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Adding value in training – The Training Solutions great debate!


Training Solutions Show 2002
The TrainingZONE lunchtime session at Training Solutions, entitled "Adding Value in Training", was a great success. The panel, evaluation expert Paul Kearns, Robin Hoyle from ebc, Adrian Snook of the Training Foundation, and consultant Graham Guest, were fully as engaging and provocative as we had hoped. Here are a few highlights from the questions and answers, and the results from our audience participation poll.

Q Is training all about productivity improvements and financial results?

Robin Hoyle: No, because it is also about improving the distribution of satisfaction.

Paul Kearns: Return on Investment isn't the only concern in training. But it should be the first concern.

Graham Guest: Yes, there must be an initial concern for business objectives.

Q How do you establish an ROI?

Paul Kearns: The structure for it really has to be there from the beginning, it isn't something that you can just do afterwards. If you are asked to afterwards, I would be suspicious about the reasons why the question has been asked.

Robin Hoyle: And we need to do it intelligently. We don't know it all. There is a need to be creative. And concentrating on ROI is OK as long as the initial ROI doesn't stifle creativity. Adding value is more than ROI.

Adrian Snook: If you ask difficult questions, you may get unpleasant answers. These questions can prove to be all about the balance of power internally. The point about effective development is that it is about a need to change behaviour. If that doesn't happen, the Return on Investment won't follow.

Q How much should individuals run their own training? Should trainers have to demonstrate the need for training personally to the individuals concerned?

Graham Guest: People are increasingly behaving as if they are self-employed. There are aware that they are responsible for their own CPD. And this has benefits all round. You can be individual about your own development and still function well as part of a team. This personal liberation can liberate company processes.

Robin Hoyle: Organisations need to be very careful of limiting an individuals work on their own development. Even surfing the net at work can involve self-development. And organisations need to look at the individual's point of view when trying to make training attractive. Telling people that a new e-learning product means that they can do all their learning at their desk may not inspire enthusiasm, when what they liked about training was that they got away.
But trips away don't work, so this is a problem. I think there are two issues here really: we need to motivate people to want to learn for themselves; and we need alternatives to the sheep-dipping approach.

Q Learners tend to be engaged by the immediately useful, whereas strategic planning would get them learning well ahead. How do you reconcile these views?

Paul Kearns: I think we have to accept that these things are different according to the relative values of different kinds of training. Basic training isn't going to make an individual particularly marketable, so it's more difficult to advertise its benefits. It is higher level skills that make a difference to both the individual and the company: management development, and that's easier to edmonstrate to both.

Graham Guest: We need to be careful of concepts, we should ask what they mean. It's all too easy to accept received ideas about what does and doesn't work, or what people do and don't like. For instance, I recently had the wonderful experience of being talked at all day for a change, in training. No one had to jump around or meet the person next to them. So I think you need to watch what you assume about how people engage.

Q Is e-learning more about saving costs than adding value?

Robin Hoyle: That's often the sales pitch, but it's rubbish. Actually the costs of replacing training with e-learning are about the same, unless you are putting thousands of people through it. It all should be about sensible planning into a process. You can take out the knowledge elements and deliver them online, and cut the sessions to short and high impact.
But we have to remember that we don't have the data yet on e-learning, so there's still an element of blind faith.

Q Should a training function be run as a revenue centre rather than a cost centre?

Paul Kearns: That just means charging internally, oterhwise it makes little or no difference.

Adrian Snook: Treating people as internal customers may help focus, so that's one reason for it.

Robin Hoyle: The problem with the revenue centre model is that other managers just drop responsibility. But internal consultancy is a good model.

Results from the poll

We asked our audience present to answer a few key questions using some nifty software from IML. From this, we found:

  • 29% were training providers or trainers, 42% were Training Officers or Training Managers, and 29% were managers

  • 66% still used classroom delivery as their main method of training staff, with 5% delivering the majority online and 24% using on-the-job training the most and 5% using self-study

  • 46% of those present used improved staff performance as the key measure of 'adding value', with 16% measuring customer satisfaction and better financial returns, and 11% using staff retention and staff satisfaction as measures

  • 44% of respondents were currently being asked to demonstrate the value of their work, 25% were not being asked to do so and a further 31% thought it would become important for them to do so in the coming year.
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