Business leaders today spend a significant amount of time and energy crafting the strategies and direction that their companies should take, but communicating that vision and implementing that strategy is no easy task.
Have you ever spent money on a training course or a quality improvement initiative for one or more of your people? It may have been a one-day workshop or a lengthy program that ultimately led to a recognized qualification or it may have been a "free" seminar. Even the free ones cost you money if you put a value on the time invested and the drop in workplace productivity. Of course we see training our people as a necessary and valuable investment and most would not argue against that view. We spend time and money on development in order that we may reap the benefits of improved performance in the workplace.
How much return on investment did your organization achieve from its training expenditure last year? Many of you reading this will not know the answer to that question but will comfort yourselves by saying something along the lines of "I'm not certain how much return we got but I'm sure it was substantial". Organizations know what the ROI is on their pension schemes and their plant and machinery so why not on their training and development?
Part of the problem lies in the way that organizations handle training and development. Not surprisingly Human Resource departments focus on the people in an organization. They carry out a training needs analysis and identify the strengths and weaknesses of personnel and put together development programs aimed at strengthening those weaknesses. Focusing on the individual and especially focusing on the weaknesses of the individual is a fundamentally flawed approach.
In order to measure the return on the training investment we need to focus on the needs of the business and not the needs of the individual. We need to focus on what the individual can do for the organization and not what the organization can do for the individual. When we offer employment to individuals we do so expecting them to add value to our organization and we compensate them financially and with other benefits in return for their labor, their skills, their experience, their enthusiasm and their creativity. We interview people and we give them a job when we recognize one or more of these qualities so it would make sense to concentrate on tapping into these qualities.
Instead of performing a training needs analysis we should perform a Business Needs Analysis. What improvements from an organizational development viewpoint do we want to see as a direct result of investing the organization's money into training and development, quality and continual improvement?
Learning must deliver real and measurable outcomes into the workplace that meet the needs of the organization, the department and the individual and it should do it in that order. Most organizations are not philanthropic bodies that exist to do nice things for the workforce; they exist to satisfy their customers, achieve their objectives, their key business issues and to do this efficiently and profitably. This is the very essence of being a quality company in today's highly competitive business environment. Organizations have to identify and meet the needs of the marketplace more effectively than their competitors if they are going to retain customer loyalty and this inevitably means developing a culture where employees must become customer focused and embrace the continual improvement philosophy. Initiating change within the workplace should be and must be a natural part of daily working life. This requires significant cultural change for many organizations. Changing the way people think and act is no easy task.
The change that has to happen in order to have the most impact on the customer will happen not at management level but at operator level within the day-to-day processes whether they be manufacturing products or developing services, sales and marketing processes, patient care in hospitals, administration, distribution or research and development. The people with their hands on these processes are not the managers they are the workforce and they are working in the present. They are coming in and taking care of today's tasks in order to meet today's deadlines.
The management team is hopefully looking toward the future. They are coming up with Vision, Mission Strategy, Policy and all that other sexy stuff but fundamentally all that they are saying is, "This is where we are today and this is where we are trying to get to in the future". In order to get there, things need to change. Organizations today generally realize that if they don't initiate change they will not thrive and they may not survive. The challenge is in making change happen at the sharp end, at the process level. This is where the wealth is created in the organization and this is where the customer is ultimately engaged and satisfied or otherwise. You can make changes all day long at management level but it is a complete and utter waste of time unless the changes that you make there are driving significant change at operational level.
How many organizations have made the mistake of not recognizing the need to change? They only respond when they are backed into a corner or when something bad happens and often by then it's far too late. Change should ideally be proactive not reactive although it is impossible to foresee everything and therefore agility to react to the unexpected is also essential.
The managers who are closest to these operational processes are our supervisors, team leaders, first line managers, cell leaders and leading hands. This level of management is the "linchpin" within the organization between its objectives and the outcomes. They are the bridge between your visualized future and the people that will get you there.
This is the level of leadership that will translate all of the good intentions of the board room, into real and measurable results at the sharp end. It is right and fitting therefore to make this level of management the focus of training and development in order to empower and equip team leaders to handle the problems of initiating change within the organization.
Many organizations recognize the situation of when having invested in training and developing their people, they return from the course or workshop exclaiming things like "It was excellent! The best course I've ever been to!" and then they slip behind their desks or machines and continue to do things in exactly the same way as they did before. All we have to show for the investment usually is a certificate or something similar that tells us that they successfully completed the course. We're left to think "They must be better at what they do because they successfully completed the course so we must be getting a benefit"; meanwhile questions are being asked of us such as "How are we performing against our targets?" "What are the customer satisfaction figures like?" "How much revenue have we generated this month?"
Most managers would like to see the training investment deliver an instant measurable return within the issues which are important to them and against which they themselves are being measured. It therefore makes sense to start a development program with a Business Needs Analysis rather than a Training Needs Analysis of individuals. This subtle difference puts the focus onto the organization and its needs rather than on to the individual. This is a large piece of the philosophy behind Measurable Management®. The success of Measurable Management® is measured by how well the participants have translated the good intentions of the boardroom into measurable improvements within the Key Business Issues that are relevant to their organization. When they are using the skills for leadership and the tools for quality introduced by the program to deliver measurable improvements within these vital few business issues, then the training will have delivered a visible benefit into the organization and a tangible return on investment will result immediately. How do you know that you are improving if you can't measure it?
Setting the direction for change is vital but organizations will inevitably meet with resistance from the workforce if there is not a culture that embraces change. Resistance is natural, embracing change is not. Changing attitudes is necessary, shifting ownership of problems and their solutions is essential to a smooth implementation of improvement ideas. Measurable Management® changes attitudes. Measurable Management® brings about Cultural Change.