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Linking Training to Business Needs: The Secrets of HMRC Revealed. By Sarah Fletcher

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Linda Martin, Head of Learning at HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) spoke to Sarah Fletcher about HMRC’s learning and development challenges, how they measure the success of their training investment and crucially just how they tie in their training to business needs.

HR Zone Q1: How has the learning and development (L&D) strategy at HM Revenue and Customs been developed?
Martin: It has been modelled to a high level in consultation with the business. The units each have their own learning strategy.

HR Zone Q2: How integrated is it with business strategy?
Martin: Very – the learning and development programme falls out of the business strategy. However, the businesses operational needs come first and learning needs follow.

HR Zone Q3: How is the success of the L&D strategy at HM Revenue and Customs assessed?
Martin: I’m not sure we overtly assess the success of the L&D strategy. We bring together a national learning plan every year, which defines what learning has to deliver. We use various performance indicators, such as the speed of training offered to new recruits or those employees moving to a new job within the company.

We have a disparate set of targets, including the number of days our trainers spend in face to face training and preparation for the programmes, the occupancy rate at our residential college which promotes learning, and our external spend.

HR Zone Q4: What are the main L&D challenges at HM Revenue and Customs?
Martin: Rapidly changing business needs, partly from the merger of Inland Revenue and HM Customs and Excise Departments (in April 2005) and changing service deliverance to customers. These have imposed new learning needs upon HMRC.

Persuading others that e-learning is the optimum solution in many cases has also proven challenging. People cling to the idea that classroom is learning better. Embedding e-learning in a blended learning philosophy has been important, and ensuring it is appropriately supported. We are currently working on this and getting feedback to improve the service.

Training must match the job that the employee needs to do, so we are linking together recruitment, induction and early training to ensure our staff are well equipped.

HR Zone Q5: What is the changing role of the trainer?
Martin: Trainers are now not only deliverers, but often coaches too. Very few only deliver the product then walk away, so to speak – they now provide learning support in a more mixed role. Sometimes design work is involved, as trainers that deliver our new management and leadership products frequently write them as well.

What is the place of L&D in business strategy?

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