Although employee performance may have improved over the last two years, individuals are still not working to their full potential, a recent poll of HR directors revealed.
With the economic climate as it is, however, it is clear that employers must ensure that they get the most out of the talent they already have.
If you add the fact that staff are staying in their roles for much longer than was previously the case, it is crucial that effective ways are found to both manage performance and obtain a genuine return on investment from training budgets that are inevitably under-pressure.
According to the previously mentioned survey of HR directors from big blue chip companies (employing up to 100,000 people), some 92% believed that staff performance had improved since the beginning of 2010 – even if 83% also felt that employees were not working to their true potential.
While it may be possible to at least partially address this issue by offering personnel more training and development, it is worth considering the respective advantages and disadvantages of providing learning in-house and outsourcing it to a third party supplier.
The first thing to do when evaluating the situation is to start with your end goal in mind. This means understanding what you are trying to achieve and setting out clear aims and objectives in order to get there.
In-house training provision
While these goals will clearly vary from business to business, let’s assume, for example, that you would like to boost productivity and performance. It’s highly likely that, if you have effective in-house trainers, they will recognise when productivity needs to be ratcheted up and be able to act on the situation very quickly.
But from an HR director’s point of view, it is also important to challenge whether such provision if providing value for money. On the downside, because most companies only have a handful of dedicated trainers, the spread of internal expertise may be somewhat limited.
Because it is impossible to be expert in everything, in-house trainers can find themselves offering learning and development in areas where they do not have genuine expertise. Limited resources can also mean that it is difficult for them to keep up-to-date with the latest methods and theories.
As a result, it may be useful to conduct surveys among your learners to understand how effective they feel that their training has been, an approach that includes evaluating the mechanisms used to follow up and consolidate learning.
On the plus side, meanwhile, internal trainers are more likely to be expert on the business and its issues than external consultants. They will also be able to understand everything from the systems and terminology that the organisation uses to the challenges that it faces.
In-house personnel are likewise better-placed to help ensure that all-important knowledge transfer takes place and to support those participants who need assistance in putting their learning into practice.
But at the end of the day, it’s really all about how cost-effective the training has proved to be – a figure that should always include the amount of time and effort taken to prepare materials, content and case studies.
Evaluating whether to outsource
If evaluating whether to go down the outsourcing route, however, they key question to consider is one of compatibility. As a result, it is important to give yourself enough time to select the right partner – and to allow providers sufficient time to come up with effective responses to your request for proposals.
To this end, you should invite them to visit your organisation in order meet the team and discover more about your company culture, staff and management behaviour and business objectives to ensure that they understand your requirements.
But it is also essential to establish the range of expertise and experience that their team can provide. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, a partner should have relevant expertise, show a genuine interest in and thorough understanding of your business and be prepared to tailor their offerings to meet your needs.
External trainers should likewise be able to provide you with an objective view of your company – so exploit this situation as such feedback should prove useful if applied effectively.
As an HR director, you need to be confident that your training provider can offer the same standards and levels of quality control as your own business – or ideally even better ones so that you can learn from them.
But it will also be necessary to establish clear key performance indicators for your client manager to adhere to in order to ensure that agreed project outcomes are fully delivered upon. It should likewise be made crystal clear how such outcomes will be met upon them and how the results will be measured.
Times are hard for employers at the moment and so it’s no surprise that they are looking to push staff to consistently perform at their best. Many already invest a lot of time and money in trying to develop their managers to boost the performance of others. But there is still room for improvement.
Suzanne Hitchen is founder of training and development provider, Instep UK.