The real value of staff development

by Rob Alder, AAT

More from this author

28 Nov 2012

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Measuring Performance

MOST EMPLOYERS agree it is beneficial to improve the skills and qualifications of their staff. However, too many firms risk wasting money by failing to measure the value of staff training adequately.

A recent AAT survey found that one in five employers do nothing to measure the benefits of improving their employees' qualifications and skills. For the others, as you might expect, appraisals are the main method used to measure the value of training. But often these do not go deep enough – for example, employers usually fail to discuss qualifications and training during appraisals.

Although unsurprising, these findings are concerning; firms should not be investing in training unless they know it can provide a benefit. So what can companies do to measure the value of improving staff qualifications?

Our research found that 71% of employers believe a higher standard of work is a benefit of improving staff qualifications and skills. Firms can use key performance indicators such as specific technical competencies they expect to see demonstrated when measuring the value of training.

More than half of employers (51%) also said training and development increases staff commitment to the company, which can be measured through benchmarks such as the rate of staff turnover and average length of service. Firms can also look at different methods to quantify the value of this increased commitment – such as money saved on recruitment consultancies.

However, employers also value more nebulous benefits, such as employees' ability to use their initiative and improved soft skills such as presentation and social interaction. These are harder to measure through performance indicators and targets, and therefore may be best assessed through appraisals. But the appraisals must include specific consideration of the benefits of the training, measured through peer review and examples of application.

Be warned

One word of caution: while it is vital leaders are clear about what they are aiming to achieve and how they will measure success, they need to consider whether or not it is appropriate to share this with their staff. While it is unfair to expect employees to be mind-readers when it comes to performance criteria, there may be times when they should be kept in the dark. For instance, if you feel that an employee needs an increase in confidence or that a team needs a morale boost, telling them they have failed to reach a target may not help.

The main thing employers need to bear in mind is that measurement must always be linked to objectives, both for the business and the individual employee. Undertaking a skills audit, including consideration of succession planning, can help employers to identify any gaps. Then training courses can be designed and qualifications chosen on the basis of what's needed.

There are numerous benefits to improving staff skills and qualifications, but employers need to put measurement techniques in place to show the value of training and development. Unless they do so, it's a waste of time and money.

Rob Alder is business development manager at the AAT

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