While there have been talks of slowdown in the economy, organisations continue to invest in people
While organizations look at effectiveness of training programs, managers are finally looking at ROI and business impact; this precisely is the big shift.
Initially, the ROI part was more of a lip service. In fact, one does not necessarily need a mathematical formula to calculate ROI. What one needs is to look at whether or not the intended outcome of the training program has been achieved. Measurability of training has become a lot more specific. There are models that are practical and related to outcomes of the training module. For example, when we conduct a sales training, we do not measure increase in sales, as sales is dependent on a number of variables. Instead, we tend to bring it down to specific benchmarks, which are not only practical, but also convincing measures. In another instance, when we train customer service front tellers in a bank for customer service, wherein part of their job entails up-sell and cross-sell through cold calling, we emphasize on improvement in quantity as well as quality of cold calls and improvement in number of conversions in terms of up-sell and cross-sell. This helps the organizations to figure out whether the employees have been able to go up the curve or not. This approach has been one big value add to the entire process, which was otherwise in a fuzzy state. Diversity is yet another area where there is a lot of requirement for training. With reference to diversity, we need to train executives to become global executives rather than merely focusing the training initiatives on cultural sensitivities. It is time to initiate training programs that neutralize cultural differences, while at the same time focus on basic business etiquettes that everybody needs to follow.
Another emerging concept, is that of virtual reality or the digital age that we are all operating in. And so - virtual bosses, virtual team members, virtual customers, and virtual remote services pose a huge challenge; right from conducting virtual meetings, managing virtual teams and more importantly, engaging the members. For instance, within Dale Carnegie’s regional team - the training head is in Bangkok, the marketing person is in Hong Kong, the sales person is in Korea and their boss is in Canada. That is a four member team that supports the entire region in Dale Carnegie who are operating out of four countries. So, with specific reference to virtual reality, the question is - how do you engage them? Engaging people in flexi-timing situations, virtual situations or work-from-home situations again has become a big need. Apart from these, entry level employability training, leadership development (given that leadership layers are very thin across organizations) and communication skills, continue to be a theme. Sales training has become more sector and product oriented, wherein for instance, pharmaceutical companies have customized their training programs. Sales effectiveness and customer service have become sectorally significant, while training to prepare global executives, virtual age management, etc., are new themes on the block.
Training methods have also changed accordingly; trainers not only coach, but also connect and look forward to create groups and platforms. The delivery mechanisms have changed; the present day delivery is through multiple mediums. With the growing trend of digital practice, which is purely web-based live online training, as different from self-based training programs, training sessions are conducted as live programs online. The digital world is affecting even the methods; clients have training programs for their employees based out of different locations, all at the same time. Global trends indicate that searches for webinars are on the rise as compared to e-learning. While companies subscribe to huge libraries, research shows that the usage rate is as low as 10%. Thus, what is the value that these companies are getting from those libraries that they subscribe to? But, online is quicker; in a 2-2.5 hour session online, people have gotten their refreshers and have customized it. This methodology works very well for soft skills too. Public speaking, presentation skills, etc. cannot be done interfacing with the screen. You have to give feedback to each other. So, that is the big breakthrough that the technology enabled webinar platform has made. There are a lot of opportunities in India, especially in education and employability. The increasing reach of broadband capability will help us tap into these domains.
While there have been talks of slowdown in the economy, organizations continue to invest in people. Last time, the industry went into a reactionary freeze, but this time, they are probably better prepared. So, they were not as reckless in their investments and exposures as they were in 2008. This is true because skilling and training has become the need of the hour. Also, the employee profile and employee expectations have changed from organizations, hence they expect investment from companies and also expect growth opportunities from them.
Companies require multitasking, so that they can handle more than one hat over a period of time, and hence employees are that much more valuable. While talent shortage is a given, lateral movement can also be disruptive. Talent mobility is the other big thing that is happening. As far as India is concerned, it seriously needs to spend money on skill development that includes vocational skills also. And ‘soft skills’ sits on top of everything.