Training and development: A cost or a value?

It’s a curious thing but – after a lifetime in education and training – I’m fairly sure about it: attitudes to training and development divide sharply along a single line. Should you focus on cost? Or on value?

In commerce we are constantly urged to produce models that demonstrate the connection between the two. (“Training Evaluation” returned me 13,400,00 results on Bing.) It’s pure logic, they say: track down statistics that will attach monetary value to behavioural change; measure that change and prove you got your money’s worth.

Well, that may be all well and good and a worthwhile exercise from time to time yet very few organisations actually worry too much about whether they’ve hit Level 4 in Kirkpatrick’s framework. In these just-post-recession days, no-one has spare budget to waste by not selecting appropriate training and – for many people – cost takes on a more dominant role. When tough times strike the majority of organisations act the same way. Training, they say, is a drain on the bottom line. Staff can just muddle on doing their best. These organisations are essentially cost-focussed: it just took the bad times to reveal their true nature.

But what about the minority? Those who say that tough times are exactly the time to train their staff? These are the ones who are value focussed. They know that an organisation’s primary strength lies in its staff. You won’t survive a recession by shaving a penny off prices: there’ll always be someone out there who’ll shave tuppence. What will bring you through and sustain you into the palmy days that will follow is a customer-focussed workforce who are loyal to the organisation and give it their all. They are the unofficial ambassadors for their firm who use all their skills and ingenuity to bring about process improvement and value inside the organisation and out.

And right now, on Merseyside, we’re all being encouraged to be value-focussed. The local Enterprise Partnership – in effect, an employer consortium – is convinced that training is essential to the development and growth of any business. And they’re putting their money where their collective mouth is by supplying some of that hard-earned cash that employers need to commission training. The attitude is a vast improvement on previous funding regimes: there’s no nanny attitude, no restrictions from outside, just the conviction that “You determine what your workforce development needs are and (we) will make you an offer of how much (we are) prepared to invest in your training project.”

They’ve called the initiative the Skills for Growth Bank. The name says it all: when you have the right skills you’re well on the path to growth. To find out more go to http://www.skillsforgrowthbank.org.uk/ and see how you can be supported as you grow your organisation. They’re offering help with costs but based on a clear understanding. The value of training can never be overstated.

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