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BLOG: Track Your Training

Dallon Christensen | July 12, 2011
Staff development still matters in finance, but can your organization measure the results? You should.

I strongly believe in training and development in the finance organization. Rules, regulations, technology, and competition change too rapidly for finance professionals to use yesterday's knowledge for today's world. One recent CFOworld article emphasizes financial risk skills as the most critical skill set for future success. I'm guessing this was not part of many education plans in the last three years.

Still, it always seems that training budgets are the first ones cut in an economic downturn. Why? For one thing, few organizations take the time to measure the results of their training. Many companies mandate a certain number of hours of training for their employees, and professionals like Certified Management Accountants require a minimum number of continuing education hours each year. But unfortunately, many training events are simply "check the box" exercises, made to comply with organization goals that measure training based on inputs (i.e. hours), and not outputs (i.e. increased knowledge or new skills learned.)

Laurie Bassi is someone who is determined to measure the impact of education in terms that finance executives can appreciate: return on investment. Bassi has founded a human capital organization and started her own investment fund to prove training impacts organizational value. While I do not believe most organizations require this level of detail, any smart organization must demand greater accountability from its training and development activities. Here are some ways to improve metrics for this critical staff opportunity.

* Start demanding pre-tests and post-tests as part of training efforts. I am building my first two classes for Whiteboard on business modeling and financial literacy. For each class, I create a pre-test and a post-test to measure what attendees have learned through the class. I will be disappointed if the scores from each exam are very similar (unless, of course, the pre-test scores are high!) That means either the students were not paying attention, or I did not meet my objectives to provide high-quality content.

* Tie development goals to performance goals. I have always placed goals related to Toastmasters International among my development targets. However, I have never had a performance goal that involved giving a certain number of presentations to management, or leading project meetings. I am sure many of you have also considered development goals as "throwaway" goals just to complete your performance plan. If you start linking development and performance goals, your staffs will take training more seriously.

* Make certain training a requirement for promotional opportunities. For example, an employee seeking opportunities in risk management would require continuing education on risk topics. The same holds true for information technology, project management or forecasting assignments. Why should on-the-job training be the only training opportunity for a new hire?

Training and development must be a key part of any company's DNA. I am always frustrated when I hear complaints about lack of knowledge and understanding, when I know the organization does not take training and development seriously.

Only by holding managers accountable for measurable results and tying development into future organizational decisions can a company actively promote this critical competency within its management teams.


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