Professional Development: Are You Seeing ROI or Just Doing It ‘Because’?


Professional Development: Are You Seeing ROI or Just Doing It ‘Because’?

I have just returned from speaking at Velg Training’s National Conference which is the annual professional development (PD) conference for anyone working in the vocational, education and training (VET) sector.

I’ve been pondering on the key message from the Welcome Speech which was:

What’s your attitude toward professional development? Is it something which is done simply to meet a compliance ‘tick and flick’ requirement, or is it viewed as a return on investment (ROI)?

Now, most people probably wouldn’t want to admit their PD investment is done simply to demonstrate compliance or to be seen as rewarding staff, but unfortunately so often this is the case.

So why is it that this is often the case?

I believe many business owners get too caught up in the “Oh well, if we must, then I suppose I’ll find the money” or “We don’t have the money, so the answer is no”, instead of viewing professional development as an essential investment which absolutely needs to demonstrate a return back into the business or organisation.

Because remember any PD investment is not just the ticket price to the conference, workshop or webinar, etc., it’s also the loss of productivity whilst the person is not in the office, as well as any travel and accommodation costs.

What’s your attitude toward professional development: Cost or investment?

For those of you who believe it’s a cost, then I’m sorry to say that’s definitely the wrong answer. If you think this, then in my experience, that’s probably because the reason is that you think, “If I train and upskill my staff, then they leave so what was the point?”

To which my response is always, “What’s it costing you not to?” If you do not train your staff in your systems, i.e. policies, procedures, culture (the way we do things here), then how can you expect them to perform consistently, productively or profitably? You can’t!

Zig Ziglar said,

“You don’t build a business. You build people, and then people build the business.”

For those enlightened business owners out there, who value and understand professional development is an ongoing investment which can improve the productivity, performance and profitability of the business, then maybe you’re wondering why you’re not getting a good or even better return on your investment?

The reason is simple. Unless you have the systems in place to get the learnings back into the business, then how can you measure the ROI? If you do have the systems in place but still are not able to see the ROI, then I would suspect staff (including you) are not following the procedures which is a performance management issue.

Here are my 3 PD tips to ensure you get the best return on your investment:

1. Ensure everyone attends some form of PD to increase their knowledge and skills by building this into their annual performance review.

Unfortunately, administration and management staff often miss out because the budget can only extend to supporting the technical staff, e.g. trainers, building designers, programmers etc. But every staff member adds value to your business, and all should be viewed equally.

2. Where multiple staff are attending the one event/conference, sit down beforehand and select the best sessions to either match their role and responsibilities or your succession planning strategy.

Conferences are great networking events, but as most would have multiple breakout sessions, you don’t want all staff at the one session and risk missing out on other gold nuggets which could also help your business. Spread the load to maximise the investment.

3. Develop a post PD follow up strategy and ensure staff deliver on this.

The biggest reason businesses feel they don’t get an ROI on PD is because staff attend but rarely report back their learnings. If no one shares the learnings, how can the business improve?

When I help clients build simple systems to improve their business, we develop a ‘My Learnings from Training’ Form which includes the following questions:

  • The main things I learnt were …
  • This training reinforced …
  • How will you share your learnings from this training with the team?
  • What will you implement from this training to improve our business?
  • How will the learnings from this training change/improve the way you work?
  • Do you believe anyone else from our business needs to do this training and why?

Because completing this form is part of attending the PD, it means:

  • Staff don’t skip the training.
  • It puts the onus on them to think of the best way to share the learnings with the whole team.
  • They are thinking of ideas to not only improve their skills, but also that of the business operations, so everyone wins.

So what’s your attitude toward professional development, and what’s your follow-up strategy to ensure there actually is a return on investment?

Without any follow-up post-training, staff will just go back to their desk, and it will be business as usual, and nothing will change because actions speak louder than words.

In the words of Warren Buffett,

“Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.”

Which are you choosing for your business?

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