A CIO's Guide to Maximizing the Training Investment

Oct 7, 2011

CIOUpdate Contributor

After 20 years helping global organizations plan and deliver training and development, especially around project management and business analysis, I have found that there are some common failure points in the design, execution and application of training. 

Furthermore ESI International conducted a Web based transfer of learning survey in March 2011. This global study, Applying Training and Transferring Learning in the Workplace: How to Turn Hope into Reality, asked more than 3,200 training-related managers and leaders at government agencies and commercial institutions if they had a system or set of processes to ensure trainees apply learning on the job to improve actual employee performance and generate positive business impact.  Drawing from this research and my own practical experience, I’ve outlined ways that CIOs can get the most out of training.

Make the case for change - Before you tell individuals to go to training explain why they are attending training, what should they expect and what the organization expects.  This is often the most neglected area that connects a training class to an IT strategy and, more importantly, a business strategy. 

CIOs should put a strategic focus on employee development, and this means you need to implement change management in the following ways:

  • Articulate the as-is state and articulate the "problem" at all levels within the organization;
  • Communicate the vision and reasons why a change in knowledge/skills/competencies is needed to support the company’s growth/future strategy; and
  • Enact change management processes as part of skills development along with associated interventions, coaching and performance support systems. 

Show your mind map and expected value - What is the framework for gathering requirements and managing your IT projects so that they align with business strategy?  You may reply: “Ask my project management office (PMO).” However, PMOs rarely can articulate the value and business outcomes of training.

That’s where the CIO comes in.

CIOs need to think and act in a very methodical, comprehensive way, developing a plan that brings about change across people, processes and tools, where training is one very important factor in overall success.

Speak business, not IT - Clearly, CIOs need to define value of a training intervention in the context of the overall business strategy.  Once the expected value is understood (often in four areas: maximizing returns, increase agility, minimize risk or improve performance), you have to show the current state by identifying various qualitative and quantitative metrics and establish success criteria. 

These metrics become your dashboard to show improvement over time and help you to communicate with various stakeholders who have varying levels of influence and interest.

Motivate your audience - Motivating employees to prepare for, attend and then successfully apply learning is an inherent and critical part of the learning process.  According to the Transfer of Learning survey, only 20 percent of survey respondents indicate that there is a financial reward or incentive to training.  This shows that organizational incentives may be out of touch with today’s workforce, and perhaps CIOs should re-examine their strategies for motivating a new, changing workforce.

If monetary rewards are out of the question, then consider offering "moments" that instill pride and serve as an incentive for an employee, like a lunch with the CEO.  Also, the timing of recognition -- perhaps during a company-wide meeting -- is often more important than the “what” kind of recognition.

Solve the manager puzzle - Managers clearly play an important role in ensuring that learning meets organizational objectives and is applied on the job.  In fact, securing manager support was selected in the Transfer of Learning survey as the number two most important strategy for the transfer of learning.  

Managers must do more than simply endorse a training program.  Managers should have clear responsibilities and provide tactical support every step of the way, including developing a plan for learning and its application on the job, holding formal pre- and post-training discussions and ensuring post-instruction reinforcement.

Plan what happens after class - Preparing for training is one thing, but what happens after training?  It is discouraging to find that almost 60 percent of those surveyed indicate that they do not have a systematic approach to preparing a trainee to transfer or apply learning on the job.  Rather they seem to rely on informal feedback or guesswork.  This lack of pre-training planning casts further doubt on an application of learning methodology within organizations.

Once training is over, the hard work begins.  CIOs should ensure that there are post-learning strategies and tactics to reinforce change and spark dedication to apply learning. Post-learning aids abound today, such as post course discussions with the manager/team leader, on-the-job aids, informal support such as social networks or online forums, or communities of practice such as peer groups/coaching.  The trick is to organize and match up this array of post-training aids to meet a learner’s specific moment of need.   

Communicate results of your measurement strategy- Showing the value of investment in training does not mean ROI is out of the picture.  It just means that you can tie training to real, measurable business impact.  To measure results, you need to define the business impact areas, which can be:  increasing quality, increasing productivity, increasing employee engagement, decreasing costs, increasing revenue, increasing customer satisfaction, decreasing cycle time, decreasing risk and increasing effective communication.

Then enact a measurement strategy.

Course evaluations need to be completed by both the trainee and manager immediately post training and then 90 days out.  After defining business impacts and developing tools and evaluations to measure specific results, CIOs can review high-level output that helps prioritize training and development investments based on this data. 

CIOs should be asking for the following data points:

  • How do learners rank various courses by perceived impact on the organization?
  • Does training impact job performance?
  • How does training impact the nine business impact areas defined above?
  • What do learners report when it comes to manager engagement and support, or the availability of post-training resources?

In any of the above examples, measurement output will show a predictive impact, a validated impact 90 days post-training and then data adjusted for bias/self-reporting.

Training is more important than ever to maximize the workforce, but determining the business impact of training must be quantified in terms of value of investment.  Increasing the value of your project management and business analysis training means CIOs can and should develop a plan for building workforce competencies based on the business strategy driving IT strategy, or even better yet, part of an iterative approach to finalizing IT strategy.

Raed Haddad, SVP, Global Delivery Services for training firm ESI International, has more than 25 years of multi-cultural, project management expertise across a range of industries, including health care, technology, government, telecom and financial services. Mr. Haddad brings his insights to executive audiences worldwide in the areas of project management, talent management and performance improvement program measurement.


Tags: IT management, training, IT staffing, career advancement, CIO Leadership, ESI International,

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