Anyone that is not an avid reader of the Inverness Courier (what, that’s not you?) will have missed last week’s article on the cost of training firefighters.
“STOP PRESS – Highlands and Islands Fire and Rescue Service plans to spend an extra £1,171,000 on top of the current £1,722,000 level.”
Now that’s a lot of money, especially when you consider that it comes directly from the Inverness reserve fund, designed to help them cope with unforeseen disasters. I guess they foresee nothing unforeseen.
From firefighters to business acumen and soft skills learning
When it comes to training fire and rescue teams, or indeed anyone undertaking a dangerous task, then training – however expensive – is clearly necessary. But at what point does training stop being a necessity, and just become an overhead? Perhaps when it is not retained, not used, and the effects not tracked or measured. When looking at financial acumen or strategic skills, for example, or the softer skills required to make great leaders, it becomes increasingly hard to truly understand the effect on the business of all this training budget.
Which in turn makes it hard for HR and L&D professionals to justify training spend when times get tough.
The challenge for training – becoming more than an expense on the balance sheet
So – at what point does training simply look like an overhead on the balance sheet? How can an HR person justify the need for training which will equip the company’s future leaders with the skills they need, when the business needs to cut overheads by say ten percent, and cut them today? We all know when businesses are faced with budget cuts it often starts with cuts in training. When it comes to choosing learning solutions, people in L&D look for solutions to fit within the allocated budgets. They often also think about finding solutions where the learning will stick. But how often do we find learning solutions that stick? How do we know if the learning solutions we implemented worked and the learning was used in the work place by the participants?
A business needs to think about the quality of the training delivered and the business impact it had, not just how many days of training each employee attended. For each intervention, a business needs to start measuring the Return On Investment (ROI) before sending employees on additional training programmes.
Measure, measure measure – and don’t let your training budget get slashed
An investment in training appears as an overhead [a bit like the HR function], simply because businesses do not take the effort to measure the impact of training. Can we easily measure Return on Investment for training? It can be measured if we invest some resources and time before and after each intervention. Employees will have to take some responsibility and use the training and inform how this training was used. There are several structured measurement tools that can be used to formally measure training and it’s worth the effort to do this to prevent training budget being the first to be slashed!