Magazine article Management Today

MT GUIDE TO BUSINESS EDUCATION & TRAINING: Firm Choice

Magazine article Management Today

MT GUIDE TO BUSINESS EDUCATION & TRAINING: Firm Choice

Article excerpt

In selecting training schemes, one size never fits all. Organisations must match the training needs of individuals with their own strategic aims. Stefan Stern reports.

Down on the farm, sheep dips may still be necessary. But businesses planning their training and development should adopt a more individualised approach. Do they? New research from the Roffey Park management institute suggests that although organisations may be prepared to support a manager financially - it costs between pounds 10,000 and pounds 50,000 to complete an MBA - only 26% have formal procedures to find out what the benefits to the organisation are.

'Time for your management training, Smithers. Pick a course, any course' seems to be the attitude. It is an incredible waste of money.

The best organisations make training and development work for them in a considered and coherent way, believes Rob James, head of consultancy at OPP, the management development advisory firm. They match the development needs of managers with the strategic aims of the business. 'Leading firms make sure their management development is demand-led, not supply-led,' he says. 'Courses used to be imposed on people regardless of what they needed. You have to take a more individual approach, based on competencies and development needs.'

In selecting training and development programmes, one size will not fit all. Nor can one course or degree be expected to do the whole development job. It is the menu of options that is offered, a complementary range of learning opportunities that will make sure new skills and learning are properly embedded, helping managers to raise their game and fulfil their potential. Practical, interpersonal or presentational skills training may fill the gaps left by more formal or more academic work.

So the first step is making sure that, as an employer, you are serious about providing a varied and targeted range of programmes for your managers that will support what your business is all about. And this means accepting not just the cost but also the inevitable time sacrifices involved.

Roffey Park's recent work on the use employers make of MBA courses suggests that, though money may not always be the main issue - you are, after all, investing in your prime talent - time spent away from the workplace remains a serious concern.

This point is backed up by OPP's James. 'New technology can bring a lot of training into the workplace. Sometimes, in-house staff can deliver courses. There are also short courses to consider - Insead, Ashridge, Henley and others all offer three-week programmes where managers can get away from the day-to-day business for a limited period.'

David Norburn, dean of Imperial College Management School, London, cautions against some of the short-course quick fixes though. 'You may well get dazzled by an impressive operator on a five-day course,' he says, 'but what happens the next Monday morning? How much of it do you remember?'

The crucial task is to identify the really useful development programmes: to distinguish between those courses that offer specific learning points, skills and knowledge that genuinely add value and can be put into practice back at work, and those that are, at best, 'expensive entertainment'. If it jars with the culture of your business, is out of tune with your strategy or fails to meet the development needs of your managers and your organisation, steer clear. …

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