Article: Successful training initiatives require a thinking CEO

Learning & Development

Successful training initiatives require a thinking CEO

People Matters in conversation with Yogesh Sood, Managing Director, Blanchard International India about the challenges of L&D function in India and the ways to overcome them

 In the process, what transpires is that even if the leader is making a mistake nobody challenges, generating behavioural in competencies


The way to measure the impact of training initiatives is to identify the results you are looking at and behaviours that will give you those results


People Matters in conversation with Yogesh Sood, Managing Director, Blanchard International India about the challenges of L&D function in India and the ways to overcome them.

What are the challenges faced by the train-ing and development teams in Indian companies? How are they different from other HR processes?

The main challenge for the L&D function, faced in India, is the integration of learning interventions with the business objectives and putting that into strategic focus along with the organization goals.

For some industries, like BPO and insurance, training is an integral part of the job per se; in those industries you can see a clear linkage between manpower planning and training & development. However, for majority of industries training happens either as a result of a performance appraisal process that opens up some gap areas for the individual to develop or as a result of an initiative of a particular leader who feels that a specific person in the team needs to be groomed in a particular area. Furthermore, most of the training focuses on functional competencies; not many see the importance of focusing on behavioural competencies in the lower levels. On the contrary, they focus on developing those competencies in the higher levels, a strategy which is a bit too late to implement by that time. Finally, in Asia, we have seen there is also a cultural aspect involved, where team members generally do not challenge the leader. In the process, what transpires is that even if the leader is making a mistake nobody challenges, generating behavioural in competencies. Even though, companies are increasingly looking at competency-based training programmes to suit their business objectives, focusing to create reward programs around it and planning learning and coaching interventions, the main challenge is still the execution. Companies are initiating training that are more need based. And this is where the L&D function differs from the rest of HR functions which are more integrated in nature, more documented and often more than just the learning processes.

What has been your experience of the impact of downsizing the training and development budgets in Indian companies? How do you expect the year 2010 to unfold in terms of bringing in focus and investment on training and development?

We have observed many companies drastically cutting their training and development budgets in India, say, by more than 60%. We have also experienced a shift in what those budgets were used for, as well as in the amount of proportional investment available for training, coaching and other interventions. Clients are also increasingly requesting for interventions that will help them in growing the business. Here companies like ours’ had an advantage as our products are all research driven and their results have been proven over the years.

Interestingly, our global study shows an increase of 30% of training budgets when we look at the global figures, and that positive surge went into developing skills like crisis management, and combating uncertainty and change.

Can you please identify those training initiatives that should be maintained regardless of the economic condition?

During these uncertain times, training in areas of change & adversity management and emotional intelligence are absolutely essential and should be maintained regardless of the existing economic condition. These characteristics are key to maintain the level of engagement, commitment and team work which would motivate the employees to cumulatively work towards the goals of the organization.

Most organizations would like to be able to measure the costs invested in training initiatives against anticipated results. How can companies quantify results and measure Return of Investment (ROI) of training?

ROI on training is a vague area. You can measure it into different ways; one is in the form of tangible outcomes like sales that gives you short term results, whereas second part looks at the behavioural changes that will give you mid and long terms results. We believe that any result you are looking at is a direct outcome of the behaviour that you are displaying. For example, if you do a cultural survey and you find that people are not working together etc. these are behavioural dimensions. If you change the behaviours, the output will also change. Problem is how do you measure it? Behavioural modification is difficult to measure but also training is only an intervention and if the culture in the organization is not supporting that change of behaviour then it is even more difficult to measure. I use the analogy of the school, where not only the teachers but also the families at home are responsible for the child’s overall development.

The way to measure the impact of training initiatives is to identify which kind of results you are looking at and which kind of behaviours will give you those results. If you can identify and establish that linkage clearly and if you can monitor those behaviours with internal surveys and assessments, you will be able to witness the direct results. I will give you one classical example. Dain M. Hancock, President, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics once said that “crucial conversations” training program from VitalSmarts helped them win the largest contract in the history of aviation. The reason was that they were able to change their behaviours and work together to achieve their results. They were not trained to get the contract, but as a part of the training they were endowed with skills and techniques aimed at creating the right behaviour, thus helping them in getting those contracts. So the core point is to be able to identify organizational goals, pin point the behaviours that will help in attaining these goals and monitor whether your organization is motivating and rewarding those behaviours.

What should companies look for while assessing training providers?

There are a few steps involved in the process, first is the training need analysis; second is selecting the training partner; third is conducting the training itself and finally evaluating the training process. This should be the ideal process.
What transpires in reality is a bit different though. What companies tend to do is to derive the output from the performance management process and they tend to cluster people and that is the way that training need analysis is done. Ideally, training should be de-linked to some extent from the performance management process and it has to be an independent process that is aligned to what are the goals of the organization and what competencies will take the organization there. This process requires a thinking CEO, not a thinking HR, as HR alone will never get there.

There is clearly a shift to focus on training and development and enhancing internal capabilities. Companies have realized that it should be integral part of the business, initially focusing on functional skills development but increasingly understanding that if there is an issue it may not necessarily be a functional issue but well be a behavioural or cultural issue.

Mr. Yogesh Sood is Managing Director, Blanchard International India. With more than 29 years of corporate experience, out of which 16 years have been invested in “people development” across various levels and cross-section of industries. He can be reached at

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Topics: Learning & Development, Strategic HR

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