To make training successful, the objectives must be clearly understood at the outset and regularly matched with the larger organisational goals
Even until a few years ago corporate training programmes in India stood for elaborate off-site jamborees held typically in an ‘easy’ year when the front-line managers were well on their way to meeting — or better still, exceeding — their agreed-upon annual targets. Many multinational companies and a handful of large local ones would ferry their employees to exotic locations, check them into swanky hotels to sit through fancy programmes designed specifically for those occasions. Once the employees were back in their offices and at their work stations the most interesting things wound up lost or forgotten—it was business as usual.
Today, that is all passé.
Smart companies realise that one-time induction training or annual process training programmes are inadequate when it comes to improving people and processes. Thanks to the focus on building a sustained learning environment, employee training in India has come out of the HR closet and grown into a Rs 5,000 crore business and shows a massive potential to grow further. The potential can be gauged from the fact that it is a $100 billion-plus industry in a market like the US. “Training equips individuals to become more effective and take on more significant challenges. It also acts as a coping mechanism by assisting them in learning new skills as the nature of their work – and the organisation – changes.”
However, training — or learning, as some experts call the process/exercise — is not without its share of challenges. To begin with, tracking the training process, getting optimum feedback, understanding whether the process has been successful in delivering real time results is critical, or it can be a waste of time, money and energy. Effectiveness is usually gauged on two parameters — on the degree to which the programme achieved the stated objective and on the ratio of the cost of the training to the return (that is, cost savings, increased productivity etc).
Those in the business say the reason why it is difficult to track whether a particular programme in a company at a certain level is even working is that often the nature of the programme is not specific, and that it is ‘intangible’ (see box). Simply put, unlike product, sales or technical training, which teach about specific skills, workshops on leadership, team effectiveness, attitudes, ethics, integrity and diversity are intangible in that it is tough to gauge the benefits as the result could vary from individual to individual.
“Skill-based training is always easy to measure”. “When we teach people presentation skills, we can video tape them in the beginning and then repeat the same at the end of the workshop. The difference is noticeable, substantial and measurable.” People require different training programmes at different stages in their career. There are programmes that are designed for first-time people managers and which then follow the person as he/she becomes a manager of managers or a functional leader, a business leader and an enterprise leader”
Offering different types of training modules at different stages in an employee’s career can, in fact, help in building a robust leadership pipeline, thus cutting attrition rates, growing revenues, and ensuring a healthy workforce and environment. “Training should be aligned to business and linked to strategy and later, tools should be used to actually check the return-on-investment (ROI),” .
spoke to companies across sectors that have not only managed to develop robust training programmes but have also been able to quantify the results in some form. Some of these are companies that were confronted with training tools that have become static or obsolete, but were able to tweak them to produce the desired results. We document the experiences of four companies from different sectors to demonstrate the unique needs of every segment and how best to answer them.
Offer a dynamic programme
“Companies spending more on leadership-led training and less on classroom learning are more likely to emerge successful”. “The emphasis is on identifying the learning styles and needs of people.” So, instead of cramming employees into auditoria and boardrooms, create training “capsules” for the workforce based on “anytime, anywhere learning”. For the sales staff, for instance, training capsules (online videos) teaching them things like how to effectively fold a shirt after it is ironed. “We found that the same thing taught in a classroom was less effective than this,” .
Similarly, for some of the sales personnel, 7-15 minute podcasts form part of the training modules; these could be different for entry, mid and senior employees. So, while a new employee in sales will get podcasts focusing on etiquette, marketing jargon and other such, seniors could listen to podcasts emphasising on improving revenue realisation, decision-making skills, building capabilities, etc. “Our training methods, which used to be classroom-based, use much more advanced technology , which is also preferred by employees,”
In another instance, we understood that it needed the services of management experts and academicians to tailor-make programmes for its top-line management. “It emphasises on experiential learning, especially for the mid- and senior-level employees,” The tracking methodology is simple and effective — reporting back the progress through feedback and actually tracking business results to determine the result of a programme.
Customisation is key
The effectiveness of training programmes can be best tracked if they are customised to suit the needs of individuals based on the specific problem at hand. With just three months to script a turnaround, the training team at PVR got into action. The team realised that the front-end staff needed a training module that not only emphasised grooming, behavioural etiquette but also offered detailed knowledge of the food and beverages offered. Thanks to the customised modules, the mid and senior staff figured that they could reduce manpower and bring down electricity bills by simple measures like shutting two exits and continue working with just two. A management call was taken and despite the multiplex’s poor performance, salaries of the employees across the board were increased to give them a boost.
Gradual increase in footfalls, a decline in the number of complaints and successful third party mystery audits were some of the methodologies that helped the management team to track the success the training modules. Now PVR increases its training budget by 10 per cent annually.
Make them time-bound
R Padmanabhan, senior vice-president, HR, learning and development, HDFC Bank, says the trick in managing a successful programme is to do “more with less”. So impacting more employees effectively, without spending too much is the answer to successful training. The key to effective training function, he adds, is active participation by all stake holders, including learning managers, HR managers and learner’s managers. Senior leaders are actively engaged at every stage, right from need identification, conceptualising the training programmes…and while conducting sessions. At HDFC Bank — with its induction, on-boarding and behavioural training programmes like service excellence and leadership programmes for various levels — employees are mapped to a training manager and the learning graph of all employees is tracked with updates available through intranet. The exercise ensures that all concerned participants invest time and effort in the tracking process.
HR managers or the team that assesses training needs in an organisation and designs and manages such programmes must remember that while the main ingredients of a training module may remain constant, the methodology used needs to evolve continuously given the pace at which technology is evolving.
Something McDonald’s India kept in mind while managing employee training. Given its young workforce and in keeping with its global philosophy, the company works closely with management consultants and industrial psychologists to help understand how the country’s workforce is evolving and how their needs and aspirations are likely to change. “We believe in catching people young and watching them grow,” McDonald’s India (South and West), explaining how the training modules at the outset (even for fresh entrants) prepares the young team to take up leadership positions within the organisation and to this end tracks their growth, potential and performance periodically.
In a tie-up with Welingkar’s Institute for Management, McDonald’s has evolved a completely customised management programme for its young employees who may have wanted to study MBA at some point in their careers. It’s a carefully crafted programme that encapsulates an MBA curriculum (with emphasis on HR management, legal, financial, people management and other skills) but with a focus specifically on the McDonald’s culture. To be sure, it has turned out to be one of the more successful programmes”.
An in-house talent committee and leadership team representing both the restaurants and the company’s corporate office do a quarterly review of the training programmes. Arora says there are roughly 200 training days in a year.
As is evident from all these examples, what sets the successful companies apart is their ability to keep a tab on the changing aspirations of their people and their ability to quickly adapt their training modules to the emerging needs. And above all, in their ability to gauge the effectiveness of such programmes.
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