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How to improve business performance


Nicholas Roi, MD SilkRoad UK, explains how companies can drive exceptional business performance and agility within the next five years

The last ten years have seen substantial growth in the perceived importance of HR and talent management within organisations. I say "perceived" because HR has always been important; what has changed recently is the recognition of talent management as a crucial business function, it is no longer an afterthought managed by administrative teams.

A decade ago only about one in 100 businesses had a properly financed HR department. But many have now been granted larger budgets for training, performance management and technology investment, and have been encouraged to explore further opportunities for enhancing employee engagement. This change has come about as C-level executives have realised the impact a well managed HR strategy can have on their business’s overall performance.

The emphasis placed on the HR department’s role in driving business performance and agility will continue to increase over the next five years. In many companies it can take up to nine months for a new employee – at any level – to reach full productivity, and the more highly skilled the individual is, the longer it takes. CEOs for example need to learn the whole company even if they’re switching to a competitor in the same industry. The initial learning curve is when an employee is most engaged - but then, inevitably, their interest plateaus. This is where HR comes in. And over the next five years we’re going to see the way training‘s delivered evolve, and companies’ use of social media mature.


Traditionally training has been given to employees that have established themselves within a business. They will have been with the company long enough for the investment in training to be considered practical, or they will be sitting in senior positions where upskilling is considered crucial. However, this is changing.

Training should be made available to everyone within a company, regardless of level or length of service. When this is considered within the context of a growing trend for flexible working, it becomes clear that remote employees need to be factored in to training plans.

Remote working isn’t a fad likely to die out in the next five years. Businesses simply don’t need to be centralised anymore: staff and clients are more dispersed than ever before. And, while there have been high profile examples of companies cancelling remote working programmes, for instance Yahoo!, most businesses now see it as cost prohibitive to have all employees in the office every day. Companies are starting to catch on to the fact that to retain talent and improve business performance, they must build remote working policies into corporate structure.

So how will HR teams offer effective training programmes to a dispersed workforce? The answer is through Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). While in ‘the old days’ training booklets were photocopied and put in pigeon holes, and then, following that, made into a PowerPoint and emailed around, SaaS means training documents can be accessed anytime, anywhere. And SaaS will also give HR teams better and easier opportunities to run staff analysis and generate reports, on, for example, staff feedback and topic engagement.

We estimate there’s currently a 50/50 split between the amount of company training done online and the amount managed within a classroom environment. But in the next five years we can expect that to move closer to 95/5 with the bias towards online. For now we will still see trainers working directly with participants, but if we look beyond five years it is likely that online avatars will begin to take their place, with only questions that are unanswerable by the training artificial intelligence referred to a human.

Social media

The other tool we anticipate factoring in exceptional business performance over the next five years is social media.

Up until this point social media has been seen as an accessory to existing HR processes. It has proven ideal for enhancing and complementing talent management programmes such as recruitment and performance, learning and onboarding. Now though, businesses will start thinking about how social media can work as a standalone tool. How can it be untangled from these existing processes and exploited?

While the answer is still up for discussion, the most obvious corporate use of social media will be to assess employee skill sets. So, employee Jane might work in sales but internal social media will reveal that she also has excellent marketing experience within a particular vertical. Meanwhile, employee Peter may be working in accounting but have some superb coding skills which his company can take advantage of.

Right now social media is an untapped resource, but in the next five years not only do we anticipate its use increasing, but we also expect to see it return its own analytics which companies can use to assess its business performance value.

Retaining staff

Companies that demonstrate the best performance are often those with the lowest staff turnover figures. Consider the classic example: Google. The tech giant has made employee engagement and retention its primary goals, and has worked hard to foster creativity. One way it has done this is by introducing '20 percent time’ - where employees are told to take 20 per cent of their working hours to focus on whichever projects they like. This keeps employees passionate about their jobs and Google readily admits that this project time regularly results in some of its most innovative business ideas. But low turnover rates shouldn’t just be associated with vibrant tech companies. Lloyds of London is one of the oldest companies in the UK yet employees have an average tenure of 21 years – shows they’ve been doing it right for a very long time!

Companies with high turnover figures waste time, money and resource on a cycle of recruitment, onboarding and training and are held back from reaching their full potential. As the hunt for the best employees hots up, we will see employers attempt to reduce turnover figures as far as possible (working towards a sub 10 per cent mark) by implementing forward thinking HR programmes designed to retain talent.


While most organisations accept that technology will be the biggest driver of improved business performance and agility in the next five years, what few realise is that changing mindsets will be more of a challenge than securing budget to invest in technology. Once a new technology has been purchased, the biggest mistake the HR department can make is to not engage the wider business in its implementation. While the extent to which this is important varies from one industry to the next, engaging staff to improve productivity is critical to achieving your corporate goals, whatever they are. 

One Response

  1. E Learning seminar at World of Learning

    Training within an organisation has become incredibly important in this day and age. The fast growing E-learning sector is on a path to high growth and is only set to grow larger. The behaviour and needs of today’s learners is changing because of the growth of the mobile workforce and the increase in the use of smartphones and tablets, as well as, of course, social media.

    This is explored further at an interesting seminar at the World of Learning Conference & Exhibition, to be held on 1 & 2 October at the NEC in Birmingham. The seminar entitled: ‘Building success through an eLearning culture’ looks at how moving to an elearning culture can benefit businesses and save on cost whilst providing flexibility.

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