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How does the training department get a seat at the strategy table?


Omar Lahyani, VP and GM of Saba Testing & Assessment, recently explored this topic in a live TrainingZone webinar ‘How to get more value from your training investment’.  Stuart Lauchlan, Head of Editorial, Sift Media, posed some questions and comments from the webinar attendees to Lahyani during the webinar and here are key extracts from his responses.

The theory of greater interaction between HR and training and the business, how does that work in practical terms, what steps should people take?

Take a proactive approach and provide insight upfront
Take a proactive approach so that training leaders get a seat at the table of the C level executives to find out what is actually driving the business, what the key metrics are and to make sure when you develop new training initiatives they are developed in the context of those metrics.  Provide advice and insight upfront on what types of development could best help the business.

I work in an EMEA role and this doesn't reflect my experience. Our US business is very driven by training programmes where as EMEA work in a more consultative approach.

Measure the impact of training initiatives
I think training should be localised to the requirements of the different cultures or to the requirements of different types of people. However at the end of the day no matter how we develop our training, I think it is important to measure the impact. We need to ensure that no matter how they learn something, whether via structured training or informal learning that they actually learn something in terms of certifications, or competencies acquired.

I'm struggling to find measures which actually mean something to business stakeholders, what is the starting point? Who correlates training to the business and who should measure this?

Ensure that finance can deliver the metrics you plan to use
I think there is no one size fits all answer to this challenge. It depends on the business and it depends on what metrics are available. Make sure that the financial departments can actually deliver the metrics you need before you plan to use them. This is something that we commonly find people try to evaluate training success at the end of the process and then find out that they cannot get the right financial or productivity data in order to do so.

How do we turn training into something that impacts on profit growth rather than something which is perceived as an expense?

Ensure that training impacts the bottom line
It is always about making sure the training impacts the bottom line. Make sure that when new strategies are designed by the business management that the training department has a seat at the C level table in order for them to understand where the business wants to go and then come up with proactive suggestions of how they can support them. This creates the value.

And in terms of how you get those objectives in place to start with, having a set of common objectives is presumably a vital part of all this, does the business always know what its objectives are in relation to the training objectives and vice versa?

Training objectives should follow the business objectives
I would say that the training objectives should always follow the business objectives.  The training leader needs to be part of the design of these new strategies.  You have to look at the intended process and the intended goal of the business. If the training department is just waiting until the business comes with a final solution, saying we need ‘training in A, B, and C’, it might not be the most efficient way of doing it.

How can you get support from the business for training initiatives for the benefits of training, learning and development?

Demonstrate the value you are delivering
Picture a situation where we have a difficult economic environment, the CEO and top executives are calling in people from marketing, training, and other departments to discuss their budgets. Typically what happens is that people from training will say ‘We’ve trained 2500 participants this year, we have ‘Y’ percentage of employees trained, we have compliance etc.’    The marketing department is used to selling and will say ‘We’ve done these various initiatives, these are the results, these are the additional leads and this is the revenue we have generated’.    And if someone says that they will cut their budget by 30%, they say ’Go ahead do it, but if you cut our budget by 30% then your revenue will fall by 15%’. That’s just how it is. I think the whole process of training evaluation not only aligns the training department to the business, but it gives the training administrators a stronger instrument to support their case and to show the value they are delivering.

Hear more from Omar, listen to the webinar.

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