No Image Available


Read more from TrainingZone

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1705321608055-0’); });

The Independent Route


Renee Mackay, CEO of Derigo Consulting, an Edinburgh-based management, training and HR consultancy, discusses whether the UK’s SME sector is losing its competitive edge due to a lack of integrated training.

Hundreds of thousands of pounds are spent by employers each year on training courses, fuelled by a multi-billion pound industry that promotes all aspects of employee learning and development.

All too often, many small and medium sized organisations are just paying lip service to their training needs by sending their employees on ad-hoc courses or even commissioning in-house training courses. This is usually given as a reaction to HR targets or problems such as low attendance rates or poor staff morale and is not part of an integrated approach.

Much of the training offered is in itself excellent, but it is often not planned with the organisation’s overall corporate goals and objectives in mind. In addition, there is frequently no continuous monitoring or measurement afterwards. Consequently, improvements do not last long as the delegate returns to an office that does not have a structured plan in place to support the newly acquired behaviour or skill. Training and subsequent learning is about changing behaviour.

In an ideal world employees sent on a training course will return with a set of new skills and be fired up with the enthusiasm to put them into practice. However how many organisations have sent employees away on expensive courses and workshops only to find that the knowledge has not been assimilated and implemented? Without a follow-up or reinforcement of the information, the employee will generally revert to their previous performance level within several weeks. This can lead to tensions within the organisation as the costs of expensive training courses mount up, managers see no real improvement, and sense an apparent lack of control over individual employee’s learning capacities.

Taken on an individual employee basis, there is perhaps no cause for concern. However, if the majority of UK SMEs are sending their staff on training courses which ultimately do not improve their development or contribution to the company, this must surely have an effect on the competitive edge that the sector currently enjoys.

Improving performance in an organisation is about a system, not just one component, and businesses who want to get the most out of their training budget should ideally assess their real training needs and how these can be aligned with the organisation’s business, sales and growth objectives. Training and the blend that is appropriate for any organisation will also depend on its situation and environment, and its ability to measure effectiveness. However, many SMEs just cannot afford the investment of a full-time training manager or an in-house training function to carry out an assessment of their employee development requirements.

An increasingly popular solution is for a firm to commission an independent training consultancy to devise a structured training plan with them which is bespoke to the company. As the agency’s contact with the company is consistent and ongoing, the impact of the training can be assessed, measured and adjusted as necessary. Organisations need to be clear about how the learning will be used within the workplace and what the desired outcomes and changes in behaviour should be otherwise it is a waste of time and resources. An independent consultancy can help organisations define these goals from the outset before embarking on any course of training. An “off-the-shelf” training programme can rarely achieve this as every organisation’s goals and objectives will be different.

In addition, having a completely independent and objective analysis of training needs can often transcend the office politics and personality issues. Good communication is vital. Participants in the training need to be given a clear idea of why the training is being given, what the objectives are and how it links to overall corporate goals. They also need to understand fully what is expected of them in terms of implementing the newly acquired skills in the workplace. If employees cannot see a clear rationale for the training and how it impacts on their role within the organisation a lot of effort can be wasted.

To truly unleash potential and create value, effective training must have a foundation in company vision and goals and must be measured, otherwise it becomes just another initiative. This is more relevant than ever as the pace of change in UK business continues to accelerate and global competition becomes fiercer.

To increase their levels of organisational learning, and consequently regain their competitive edge, organisations in the UK’s SME sector will need to understand how their organisational system relates to their training needs, while considering how their employees really learn.


Get the latest from TrainingZone.

Elevate your L&D expertise by subscribing to TrainingZone’s newsletter! Get curated insights, premium reports, and event updates from industry leaders.


Thank you!