Building a profitable training culture (HR-EDU foresight):


One -on -one with two HR experts

Q1: How important is HR and continuous Learning and Development (L&D) for an organization now?

 Tamhida: Human resources of organizations have gained more importance and strategic value in today’s competitive and turbulent environments.  If competitive success is achieved through people, then the skills of those people are critical. Consequently, one of the most obvious implications of the changing basis of competitive success is the growing importance of having a workforce with adequate skills. Every organization needs well-adjusted, trained, and experienced people to perform all activities. L&D which sits within the HR development function is the heart of a continuous effort designed to improve employee competency and organizational performance.

Elizabeth: I agree that HR is highly relevant to drive a high-performance culture in today’s fast and competitive times. L & D is a crucial part of organizational growth and development because changing times demand changing people. The transfer of knowledge across the universe creates the real “web” site of life. Knowledge must be interwoven and mixed amongst people of diverse cultures, backgrounds, and aspirations; it must be exchanged. However, the return on investment (ROI) for human resource development has been a debatable issue. Lately, the traditional term of “training and development” has evolved to be called “learning and development” and this is for crucial reasons. “Learning is a relatively permanent change in behaviour because of experience”. This renowned definition by Michael Armstrong incites what a good training and development program should achieve – change and experience. Many organizations that do not invest in building the capacity of their workforce adduce a motion that training is wasteful. The root of this problem however comes to the design and evaluation of training. As an HR professional and Quality Management (Six Sigma) student, I can boldly say that training is a WASTEFUL if it does not add up to profitability. Waste is anything that brings cost and adds no value. But in practice, how often is employee training evaluated for impact on ROI? Better still, how often do we realize that people remain the same after training or only achieve negative learning transfer due to restriction to only “theoretical” frameworks during training. Most time training evaluations stop in the classroom after the facilitator ends the session and asks the trainees how they ‘felt’ about their session. But that question cannot answer the problem on the BOTTOM-LINE. We need results! 

Q2: How do you think organizations can use L&D to maximize ROI?

Elizabeth: As I tried to mention earlier, training design and evaluation must be intentional, and the intention must be translated to profitability. By creating an L&D journey that ensures experience and change, profit is expedient to grow. Quality is vested in the reality a student finds in the training program. It is more science than art, more work, than talk, and more profit than cost. Studies have shown that ROI is correlated with internal lean six sigma, which is possible in the shortest possible time if it’s implemented by well-trained/ “competent” people. Employee training goes beyond just receiving new knowledge or gaining new skills, it must show a model for “PRACTICE”. Training must be evaluated on the 4 levels of satisfaction proposed by Kirkpatrick (1993) – reaction (measures how employees ‘feel’ about the session, learning (measures new knowledge gained or skill improved), behaviour (measures how learning outcomes have been applied in the workforce) and results (measures the impact on ROI, which may be positive, negative or no-change).  Since business leaders are challenged to find “quick win” solutions, they sometimes do not prioritize training or implement it wrongly.

Tamhida: It’s not easy to evaluate learning and development (L&D) programs and to calculate their return on investment (ROI). As a result, essential stages of a healthy L&D program often fall through the cracks. For example, according to a 2016 survey of 119 talent development leaders by the Association for Talent Development, only 36% reported their training evaluation assessment determined if the learning initiative pushed the organization towards a business goal. Not evaluating programs or measuring ROI is risky, since, in 2018, U.S. companies spent $87.6 billion on training initiatives, according to a survey from Training magazine’s training industry report. For all the money spent, company leaders want to know if they’re getting a solid return on investment for the training. The potential ROI from training is substantial, but it’s up to learning and development leaders to make the case to the C-Suite. Luckily, a growing number of studies highlight the positive ROI of learning and development.

Simulation training has been shown by many studies to deliver the best learning outcomes, providing a realistic and immersive experience in the context of the learner’s job role. With advances in technology, e-learning software, and our understanding of how people learn, we’re seeing a rise in simulation-based training. Businesses can save on the cost of assembling large groups of trainees and reduce risks involved with honing skills for complex tasks on the job while achieving greater control and insights around performance analytics. A simulation-based learning environment offers a safe way for organizations to help their employees pick up the vital skills needed.

As the name suggests, simulation training is the creation of a true-to-life learning environment that mirrors real-life work and scenarios. Trainees can put real knowledge and skills into practice not just by reading training books or listening to intra-training lectures, but through a physical, hands-on activity. This type of training is so effective as it considers several of the learning styles preferred by different learners. Not everyone learns visually, or through auditory materials, and simulation-based training also considers the needs of kinesthetic learners who flourish through practical exercises. Additionally, Simulation training also facilitates organizations with quantifiable results for ROI.

Q3: What is making Simulation-based training an effective training method for modern organizations?

Tamhida: Simulation-based training is a highly effective way of transferring key skills to trainees in a cost-effective manner. It provides an optimum way for employers to assess how well their trainees are putting skills into practice, and the decisions they are making in front of simulated real-life situations. Learning in a safe and managed environment provides essential hands-on experience that integrates key theoretical concepts with interactive, computer-simulated situations.

This immersive style of training, according to the US National Library of Medicine following a review of numerous research studies, provides learning “just like the real thing.” Simulated systems are designed to match the look and functionality of trainees’ company’s programmes. This is especially important so that trainees acquire skills in an environment that looks and feels like the one they will be working with every day. What makes it unique is that when systems and processes evolve, the simulations can evolve with them, reducing the ongoing costs of training content development. Learners’ progress and performance can be tracked, detailed analytics reports are provided to calculate ROI, and process owners can get a complete bird’s eye view on their progress throughout the simulation. The focus of simulation-based programs is to build the training capacity so that companies may be more agile and get their new employees up to speed quickly, with more precision and productivity.

Elizabeth: Time and money are wasted if training is not implemented rightly to help people to CHANGE (become more effective and more efficient) on the job. Therefore, more modern organizations are having simulation models for their business training and even orientations. More so, universities and colleges should be more proactive by providing real-life activities to students to help them quickly bridge the gap between “school and work” when they graduate. The world is changing at a faster pace. The survivors of the information age will be the people who learnt, relearnt, and unlearnt quickly and effectively. But to help them, these people need a touch with reality, the kind simulation-based training provides without substitute.

Q4: What is the next step for business experts, academic and professional development bodies?

Tamhida: Collaboration between industry and academia is key to catalyze innovation and growth in organizations. While industry often focuses on addressing solutions that are of near-term commercial value and academia focuses on building new knowledge through research and imparting education to students, the combination can yield accelerated development of breakthroughs facilitating L&D with maximum ROI. Partnerships between industry and academia will be instrumental to advancing research and knowledge and creating a skilled workforce in the coming years, especially post-pandemic where economic recovery is a given priority in all nations around the world.

Elizabeth: Cooperation, more than competition is required between industry, academia, and professional bodies. From the early days of career development, especially the exploration stage (in Super & Hall’s theory) which is the period of transition from college to work, students should be quickly exposed. It goes beyond short internships to what is taught in the classroom and how it is taught. For this reason of partnerships, I like the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 17 which is about “partnerships for the goals.”, because nothing great is ever achieved alone. I encourage organizations to support schools with early work opportunities and organizational needs assessment. Schools should also consider new trends and involve organizations in students’ learning plans & curricula.

Q5: What do we do about L&D professionals in organizations stuck on traditional methodology?

Tamhida: The move to a remote workforce has forced L&D professionals to rethink the traditional training model they are used to. They now need to consider how to execute a new learning model that maintains the benefits of onsite instructor-led training and considers factors, such as being able to reach a learning audience at scale, get them to engage in learning, and provide them with valuable information and help them to be effective.

L&D professionals should deeply understand that the wheel has turned into a full revolution and we need a paradigm shift now. We need to take a 60,000-foot view that encompasses changing learner demographics, business realities, strategic priorities, technological advances, and training philosophies to chart out a mid-to-long-term blueprint. Taking some time out to kick back and carve your consciousness is a good starting point. While training ROI has been a raging debate for over a decade now, there has not been much headway so far to create a sustainable way of calculating it. Simulation-based training is here to solve that problem! But it is up to (L&D) leaders to have the vision to create training models of ROI calculation from it.

Lastly, my advice to L&D professionals is not to Flirt with new Technology! Work with conviction. Think it through. Plan out the implementation properly. Create a visible campaign around it. Measure outcomes in a meaningful way. Most importantly, make the organizational stakeholders be involved completely, from the top down.

Elizabeth: We have two options, to accept change or accept failure. My seven-sentence letter to everyone who is asking “WHO MOVED MY CHEESE?” is simple. Don’t let fear stop you in your quest for growth. Change starts in the mind. So, decide to move with the cheese like the characters of Sniff and Scurry and trust that something better lays ahead – that is, efficiency & effectiveness. Every change needs you. If you do not change, you will be obsolete. Change can be difficult, but it is necessary. I encourage you to read widely. One of my best change management books is “WHO MOVED MY CHEESE?” written By Spencer Johnson, you should read it.

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