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Opinion & Analysis

Investing in the right learning model is key

It’s the start of a new year, and most of us are equipped with new hopes of conquering the world or maybe just something a bit more straightforward, like your job, a new skill or catapulting your business forward.

Have you thought about your learning and development needs for 2017? In the annual survey of ‘elite organisations’ conducted by Fortune and the Hay Group, they found that “these companies don’t just claim people are their best asset; they behave that way.

They offer intensive leadership development programmes that address individuals’ needs and the organisation’s strategic goals.”

If people are an organisation’s best asset, then the skill level of the employees must be continually assessed and developed, which is the essence of building a learning culture.

Your business should focus on having a clear learning and development strategy that is tied in the strategic objectives of the business.

A study entitled ‘‘Profiting From Learning: Do Firms’ Investments in Education and Training Pay Off?’’ conducted by the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) was designed to measure the link between money spent on training/learning and the companies’ total shareholder return (TSR).

TSR is defined as the change in (a company’s) stock price plus dividends. This measure was selected because many financial analysts consider it as the best measure of a stockholder’s actual return.

The ASTD found that the top quarter of the companies in the study group spent $1595 (Sh165,500) per employee while the average companies spent $680 (Sh70, 500) per employee per year.

The top companies had an average TSR of 36.9 per cent while companies investing below the average had only a 19.8 per cent TSR.

This shows that investing in learning pays off, but it is important to invest in the right learning. Here are some ideas on how to do that:

1. Reflect on 2016

Reflection is a powerful, yet an underutilized tool. Most of us have spent so much time planning for 2017 or mulling over our New Year’s resolution(s) for 2017 (which generally lasts approximately a month!) that we have forgotten to reflect on what we did or did not achieve in 2016.

How can we plan for the future without learning from the past? Here are two simple questions to ask yourself or your team: What am I/we proud of from 2016? What could I/we have done differently or better in 2016?

 The answers to these questions will help you feel more confident about what you did well: things you could repeat or sharpen. They will also help you identify what you need to change or develop.

2. Clarify your goals for 2017

Think through and be clear about what you want to achieve in 2017, for yourself and your business. How does this link into the longer-term vision for the business?

Imagine you are at the end of 2017, what do you want to look back on and say that you are proud of?

Being clear about your goals helps you to be focused, prioritise and make time for what is important to you, instead of firefighting and being dragged into to others’ agendas.

3. Analyse the gap and plan

Review your goals and ask yourself - If this is what I/we want to achieve is 2017: What is my/our current ability to achieve this? What skills, knowledge and behaviour do I/we need in order to ensure I/we achieve the goals for 2017?

Pull together the plan and categorise your development needs, for example - technical training, creative skills, leadership development or personal development. Be specific about each need, the time frame required and how it will be addressed.

4. Stick to your guns

In several institutions, learning and development seems to be the sacrificial lamb: always the first to be given up the minute there is a challenge, like a lack of funds or time.  

A report from Bersin by Deloitte states that “smart companies are investing in and increasing their learning and development budget.”

There will always something else you can spend your budget on or your time on.

However, the bigger question is: how will sacrificing your growth and development impact your success in the future?

5. Evaluate and follow-up

Evaluating and following up is such a crucial part of our growth and links very much into point number 1- reflecting. Look at what progress has been made and what there is still to make.

Kent is the founder and owner of Redstone Consulting, which focuses on leadership development, change management, performance management, team development and executive coaching. Email: rekha@redstoneconsulting.co.ke