I was recently ask the question - Is training and development- a good investment or an additional expenditure? I thought I'd share my answer as it really got me thinking about how important it is to be able to justify what we do.
This is a very good, but multifaceted question. I am reading Danial Pink's book A Whole New Mind, which I highly recommend. In a nutshell, is points to a new era approaching, what he calls the Conceptual Age (right-brain thinking), as the Knowledge age begins to fade (left-brain thinking). He is not saying that left brain thinking is no longer needed,but must be suplimented with right brain concepts. How this impacts you question, is what I have been developing at Schaefer Recognition Group for about 6 years. Training in itself is a good thing, but it's value is tied directly to employee perception and how much they feel that you truly care about them (right brain thinking), rather than simply using training as a way to get more work out of them (left brain thinking).
There three secrets to making training a good investment are:
1. Make it Real - show employees first and foremost that you value them as people, so they believe you mean it and see your training, recognition and incentive opportunities as more about them, than about the company. You get the trickle down value automatically.
2. Make it Relevant - We have a more sophisticated workforce today than ever before. The good news is that they are more able to hit the ground running and use tutorial-type self training tools. The bad part is that they are very fickle and immediately recognition when they are being manipulated. Your training and communications must focust on keeping your people informed about the big picture (right braining thinking), rather than the more traditional "need-to-know-basis" (left brain, and somewhat insultring, thinking). You must have a component in your train the trainer that gets the management team emotionally on board, so they not only can implement the training, but demonstrate what's in it for everyone involved. If you have begun with showing employees that you genuinely Love and Respect them (right brain), the are more likely to believe and get behind training the will help THEIR company.
3. Prove it's Working - This is the part where many good intentions fall short. If you can't prove that your time and effort spent on training is yielding measurable, profitable results,you will soon find your best training efforts on the cutting room floor. Upper management normally houses the most left brain folks in any business, and while they may give you some warm and fuzzy right brain leaway, they will ultimately need to show the board an ROI component that justifies the money. This can be done using today's high tech platforms, as long as you are working with someone who understands, practices, and promotes the development and use of drill-down reporting as a total performance management strategy.
Don't set up just a training program, but view the goal as building a performance management tool, that saves far more than it costs. Good question and good luck!