Five tips for embedding quality in training and driving better ROI

Beckie Badger looks at how L&D teams can ensure programmes are set up for success and deliver real value to businesses

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City & Guilds recent Training Trends 2022 research found that 96 per cent of large employers are planning to sustain or increase investment in L&D. However, nearly all employers surveyed reported examples of training failing to meet its objectives over the past five years.

With tough economic conditions ahead, organisations will be looking to maximise every element of their spend, including training and skills development. For L&D professionals, showing a clear return on training investment will become increasingly important in 2023.

L&D professionals will be sharpening their focus on their skills strategies, looking for ways to maximise the effectiveness of in-house training programmes to boost skills, increase retention and drive ROI to weather the storms ahead.

1. Secure senior leadership support

Securing ongoing support from your leadership team is crucial. Spend time with senior management to truly understand their strategic goals ahead of planning your training and ensure that there is a direct link between the objectives of the training and the needs of the business. This early engagement will enable you to focus your training approach from the outset and help you secure the budget required.

Once the training is up and running, report regularly back to senior management to keep them engaged and to give them confidence that the organisation’s investment in learning is being used in the most efficient way. You can then look for ways in which training reports can become a tool to inform strategic decision making.

In addition, push for and promote a ‘business as usual’ approach to training so that it is seen as a natural part of the staff development journey.

2. Be strategic with planning and design

Focus on your systems and procedures, which will drive quality. Map out your strengths and weaknesses so that you can decide what expertise you have in-house and where it is going to be more time and/or cost effective to bring in external experts. If/when you bring in external support, buddy relevant staff with the external experts so that you can start building your own in-house capacity over time.

The key is to really focus on the quality of the learning experience. Staff will value training that their employer has taken seriously and invested money in. If the content of the training is relevant, it will help staff enhance their performance and reach higher goals, including promotion.

Ensure that you have fit for purpose systems and procedures in place to enable effective operation of your training. Without these, it will be very difficult to ensure continuity and put effective evaluation in place.

3. Rethink evaluation

Evaluation can be challenging but defining your metrics and focusing on continuous improvement can make a big difference.

Define what metrics you will use to demonstrate if your training is working. Without clear measurements, you may end up wasting your money, time and staff resources. As part of your metrics, analyse the feedback you have gathered on the programme to establish if your training is working and identify improvements you need to make. Remember to seek feedback on the whole process, not just the content and delivery of the training. Refine your measurements regularly.

Reflect on your metrics you have set, check whether you are looking for the right patterns and trends, and whether the data you are capturing is useful in practice to support your plans for continuous improvement.

Continuous improvement is what will allow you to create a framework of actions to ensure the longevity of the programmes. It enables organisations to put the right systems and processes in place to regularly review and evaluate their training so that they know what adjustments are needed to make their programmes more successful.

4. Recognise achievement through external certification

Providing an externally recognised mark of quality can drive multiple benefits for the organisation and individual. Whatever training you offer, recognition of achievement is very important, as it will drive staff engagement, improve skill levels and set your brand apart. It also impacts on product and service delivery and enables your business to remain competitive.

External certification can significantly boost the success of your training, yet only 29 per cent of employers offer it, according to the City & Guilds Training Trends survey. Those who do use external certification see added benefits including retaining and attracting staff, saving HR costs, enabling staff progression and strengthening brand reputation.

5. Create your own blueprint

Focus on what is right for your business and your staff. If in-house training is a key area of focus for your business, create your own blueprint based on yours and others’ experience on training delivery. It doesn’t mean one single template for all your programmes. It’s about identifying the key ingredients of success, which can be replicated in any training.

It’s also not a one-off exercise, it’s a continuous process where the more training you do, the better and more sophisticated your own blueprint will become. Having your own template, which is implemented effectively, can lead to significant efficiencies, improve business performance and enhance staff retention.

Beckie Badger is lead learning and development specialist at City & Guilds