Six Ways to Link Human Resources Development to Your Bottom Line

Article excerpt

KEPNER-TREGOE

In today's cost-conscious, rapidly changing environment, efforts to sustain the relevance of human resource development hinge on three golden words: return on investment (ROI). Demonstrate the RO1 of human resource development and chances are it will not go M1A. But how can HR demonstrate bottom-line value?

1. Set expectations before learning begins-Setting expectations and providing management support before formal learning begins helps participants understand what will be expected of them and how training will relate to their work.

One pharmaceutical manufacturer had received a warning letter from the FDA citing a backlog of open investigations and failure to consistently find root cause. To remedy the situation, facilitators were developed to conduct workshops in problem solving and prevention for all employees involved in the writing of investigations. In one of the company's facilities, the facilitators also conducted hour-long pro-workshop meetings that set expectations for the workshop participants. When results were measured, this facility outperformed all others. In addition, by identifying issues for future resolution and targeting investments accordingly, the company could forecast probable outcomes and then calculate ROI.

2. Provide coaching to support success-Coaches can often guide employees as they apply their new skills. For instance, a medical insurance company found that it needed to expand its IT staff's problem-solving, decision-making and project management skills. Facilitators were trained to conduct workshops to impart these skills and to provide coaching support afterwards. The news spread quickly to the rest of the organization, which began requesting coaching help. This maximized ROI and also ensured that the ongoing benefits of training were documented.

3. Require evidence of application of new skills-One key challenge for new learners is to identity application opportunities. When engineers at an oil refinery were trained in troubleshooting, management set the expectation that they would be required to begin specific troubleshooting applications during class and then complete them back on the job. In the process of working on a gasket problem, one participant discovered that a recent explosion in the plant had loosened gritty material, which had begun to work its way through the system. He then asked, "Where else could this material be?" The material was found in an important but rarely used part of the plant that was due to be started up shortly.

If this participant had not been required to apply his new skills, ask questions and find the cause of the gasket wear, the line would have shut down at the moment it was most needed. Sure, it's important to connect the front end of skill development to the business, but it's equally important to ensure that results improve ongoing business operations. …