Maximizing the Return from your Development Spend

The “ask” from development spend in today’s business environment is much higher. How can learning and development help an organization better match shareholder, leadership, customer and employee expectations?

Maximizing the Return from your Development Spend

4 Apr 2017 by  Neha Mohunta

Cookie cutter solutions for designing the organization’s learning and development plan are plentiful – develop a competency model, conduct a training needs analysis, select the target audience, identify a credible external vendor and package it with the manager feedback conversation. There is no undermining the effort involved in getting the foundations right.  In fact, Aon Hewitt’s Best Employer Middle East study indicates that 79% of organizations in the GCC region already have competencies in place which are critical for driving success.
On average, 70% use these competencies to educate and develop its employees.

This is good news; however with increasing workforce diversity, workforce virtualization and the evolving application of technology, these foundations alone are not adequate. The “ask” from learning and development in today’s business environment is much higher.

Organizations face several roadblocks in meeting their learning objectives:
  • Cost Vs Value mentality: There is a misconception that higher training budgets per employee alone will automatically generate results. Instead, bespoke programs, customized to match learning needs have a higher impact on productivity and give organizations the adaptive advantage.

  • Program Relevance: Alignment between strategy, business needs and development program is crucial for delivering results. Gaps at this stage have a domino effect on managers and employees who are unwilling to spend time on tasks not aligned with their growth aspirations. Cancellations and low participation in programs can be addressed by this factor alone.

  • Proactive Vs Reactive Measures: Need and success criteria for any learning intervention needs to be defined upfront. Post intervention talent analytics introduced as an afterthought do not accurately reflect the progress.

  • Limited impact measurement post-delivery: Aon Hewitt’s Best Employers study indicates that 50% of Middle East organizations continue to use traditional metrics such as training hours per person as measures of evaluating the effectiveness of a learning and development program. There is less focus on next steps once a program has been delivered.

It is therefore hard to distinguish between myth and reality when evaluating the ROI for development. Should one measure training man-days or number of programs per employee? Are “smile sheets” adequate or is knowledge testing more effective? How is post training learning application evaluated?

Here is how learning and development can help organizations better match shareholder, leadership, customer and employee expectations.

  • Balance the Push and Pull Learning Strategy: Adapt to the millennial need of bite sized, ‘learning on the go’ by introducing mobile learning and gamification into development. Gain scale and leverage technology by introducing a platform that links other talent management systems. Push relevant content using the mobile learning platform such as videos/talks. Introduce video conference based learning which is both cost effective, practical and a great way to connect virtual teams. Create more opportunities for the advanced learner by shifting ownership to the employee. For instance, introduce massive open online courses.

  • Create A Development Continuum: Stakeholders need to view learning as a continuous process for business enhancement. At Aon Hewitt, learning programs are facilitated in the form of a development cycle where various modular training workshops are embedded with networking events, action learning projects, stakeholder dipstick surveys etc. creating a learning behavior that is reinforced across 9-12 months. This helps inculcate the learning habit, creates stickiness and provides on-going check-points in the development journey.

  • HR Branding: Creating a sense of exclusivity, pride and energy is important to change the “I don’t have time for another HR training” to “I want to be on the nomination list”. Establish credibility and relevance by breaking the Chinese wall between HR business partners and the Center of Excellence. Create opportunities for structured feedback from end users. Once the program is delivered, share success stories and benefits.

  • Development Infrastructure: The biggest gap in development spend and return spectrum is experienced post-implementation, when learning budgets are exhausted and there is little impetus to engage in post program application and MEMA (Measurement, Evaluation, Metrics and Analytics). However, both employees and managers need a continuous formal and informal support framework to drive learning from the programs. Therefore, provide that support mechanism - give opportunities for employees stretch responsibilities, let them conduct knowledge share sessions, encourage them to train others and track progress against the main objectives.

To create real business impact, establish the criteria and vision for success upfront. Ensure the learning strategy maintains the right balance to meet the business needs and drives employee engagement. Instead of a program to program view, expand the learning horizon to consider middle to long term impact. Take cues from marketing to brand HR initiatives and share ‘wins’, and finally, ride the wave of disruptions in learning and development - classroom learning is here to stay but integrate it with new age learning mechanisms including micro learning, gamification, mobile, MOOCs and video learning.

Neha Mohunta

Neha is a Senior Consultant with Aon Hewitt Middle East, based out of the Dubai office. With over 10 years of experience, Neha manages projects in areas such as Integrated Talent Management including competency articulation, high potential management, succession planning, career management, job evaluation and grading structure design.

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