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Monday, July 13, 2009

What If We Turn Training Departments to Performance Management Department? Part 1

Im just thinking aloud here. I'm thinking that maybe companies who have training departments can change their mandate and start calling them performance management department. They'd probably be doing a lot of the same stuff and then some. I'm not sure if this is an original idea. I'm typing this post in my cellphone as I sit in a bus. For those who have never thought about it, you might want to consider my ponderings.

I mean think about it. A lot of training investment go to waste  because companies fail to make a direct link between training and performance improvement. In many companies, training and performance management belong to separate boxes handled by separate groups who are often poorly coordinating if they ever did. In many companies training managers fail to use performance data for identifying training needs. What they often do is send out training needs questionnaires that respondents hastily fill out without much thought and then these become the basis for the company's training plan. In the meantime performance data that scream for the real development needs that impact performance, sit on tables or gather dust in 201 file folders. This is simply because the company use them only as basis for salary review, rewards and all others except training. Many companies don't run an analysis on performance trends that will most likely reveal the needed development interventions. It's such a waste of useful information.

Because training departments are often detached from the business of managing performance, their own performance is often measured by hours of training or successful implementation of annual training plan which may or may not have an impact on actual performance. I'm thinking that if top management can see the direct result of an intervention to performance, maybe they won't be so quick to put them on the chopping board whenever the need or urge to cut cost comes up.

If this post engaged you enough to read up to this far, I imagine you asking how i propose the shift from training department to happen. Here are my answers:

First, let us suppose that top management and training department people are now convinced that this is a right move to make, I imagine that the next logical step is to create a clear mandate for the remodeled group. Off hand, I imagine the purpose of this group to be stated like this:

"To help improve organization-wide performance by offering useful performance management tools, monitor key performance indicators, identify competency gaps, offer solutions in the form of training, coaching, improved work instructions, etc. Monitor the effectiveness of these solutions, create action plans geared towards continous performance improvement and finally make recommendations on items that may be addressed by other departments."

I can see my bus stop ahead and this post has become awfully long. I'm going back to this topic as soon as I can. In the mean time, please help me by co-imagining with me about the possibility of this happening. Share your thoughts by commenting below. I will also appreciate fair warnings. See you next post!


  1. Oh this is nice! I hope we have an HR like yours... ;-)

    Thanks for the EC ad btw!

  2. Ed, the article's topic is something that has been a focus of mine for some time now. Let me add a few dimensions to your discussion, so you can consider them.

    In his book "Return on Learning - Training for High Performance at Accenture" Donald Vanthournout and colleagues mention that unless we can show management that training contributes to better performance, tey will always see it as a nice to have - so HR/training managers need to find measurables to prove this.

    It may sound obvious - you train, you get better (assuming the training was good, and the participant learned)... but just how much better? Chapter 3 of said book gives the readers the manner by which this was answered. For every dollar invested in a training program, Accenture got back $4.33 - or a $3.33 return on learning.

    Now obviously, Accenture's model may have different results when applied elsewhere... but it is one company that has seriously considered training as a necessity in the past... and here was proof that they were getting something - not just a feel good abstraction that was hard to defend when cost-cutting came across the table.

    Why would you cut a 300% improvement? Simple answer... ignorance. Ironic, that this - the antithesis of learning, affects it very much. Management should know better - and Learning practitioners need to explain, educate and enlighten said management.

  3. Wow! Great input, Butch! Thanks for sharing your experience with Accenture. It's worth emulating by any company who is serious about performance improvement and linking their human resource development strategies to it. :)


If you have an opinion about this topic or a related experience you want to share, please feel free to leave a comment but please be respectful. No bad words please or I will be constrained to delete it.