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Management Development – The Business Imperative


Nick Foster, VP Human Resources UK, Ireland & South Africa for the Oracle Corporation and plenary speaker at Learning Technologies 2006, talks to TrainingZONE about aligning management development to the needs of the business.

TrainingZONE: In the preview of your plenary session, "Aligning management development to the needs of the business", it mentions that training is too important to leave to L&D. Can you explain what you mean?
Nick Foster: Increasingly, the key differentiator of businesses today is talent. This is particularly true of the technology sector. Thus having the right talent in the right place at the right time is fundamental to the success of the business; if you accept this, then developing talent cannot be done in a vacuum by the training or learning & development department. It becomes of strategic importance and needs board ownership and to be an integral part of the business.

TrainingZONE: You believe that the board needs to apply strict metrics to evaluating the success of L&D. Isn't this something that L&D professionals and departments are likely to be understandably wary of?
Nick Foster: Why? What gets measured gets managed. Training is expensive. Why shouldn’t it be justified and evaluated just like any other business investment?

TrainingZONE: You feel that training needs to go beyond the happy sheet when it comes to evaluation. What form of evaluation do you advocate and why?
Nick Foster: We’ve all seen the ‘happy sheets’ completed after a training programme – the participants are all fired up and positive; they loved the trainer, the venue was good, maybe the food could’ve been better. But what happens when reality kicks in back on the job? There needs to be a mechanism to evaluate the programme once the participant is back at work and has tried to implement the learning. It’s also important to get the participant’s manager’s input on what (if anything) changed.

TrainingZONE: How real do you think that the threat of outsourcing is and what will it mean for L&D Departments and professionals?
Nick Foster: I think there will always be room for the use of third parties and consultants to either deliver or design programmes. However, why should a truly effective L&D team that engage with the board on the strategic aspects of talent development fear outsourcing? They are a core part of the business.

TrainingZONE: Your session will specifically focus on management development. How well do you think this is generally being carried out in the UK?
Nick Foster: There’s no simple answer here. Some companies do a great job, others a lousy job. But there’s probably room for improvement in most organisations – maybe greater board interest will trigger this.

TrainingZONE: What development do you feel that UK managers need most as a whole?

Nick Foster: From my experience in HR over the years, ensuring UK managers have the right skills to manage and motivate their teams properly has been the key issue. So, I’ve got to say people management would be an important area for development.

TrainingZONE: What intervention can have the greatest impact on how someone manages?
Nick Foster: Get in early. Management development is too late once someone’s spent several years managing a large team and screwed it up.

TrainingZONE: Is there a session at this year's conference that you wouldn't want to miss?
Nick Foster: Probably the session on ‘Demonstrating the value of learning & development’.

TrainingZONE: What one message or piece of advice do you hope that those who attend your plenary session will take away with them?
Nick Foster: Get your board (or whatever the senior management team is called in your organisation) more involved and see it as an opportunity not a threat.

* Nick Foster VP Human Resources UK, Ireland & South Africa for the Oracle Corporation. With more than 15 years’ experience in senior management HR positions in the IT industry, he is a member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and holds an MSc from the London School of Economics (LSE) in HR management. He is a plenary speaker at the Learning Technologies Conference, for more information on the conference click here.


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