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Leaders must learn

If you ask any Board member whether they think training and development

If you ask any Board member whether they think training and development is important in their firm, you can bet your house they will agree. But how much are Boards actually doing when it comes to promoting and supporting the continuous development of the staff they oversee? Asks business coach, Penny Davenport.

There are four standards HR directors should demand of their Board; leading from the front in training and development. HR heads must secure a very clear statement from the Board about the importance of ongoing training and education in the firm. This cannot be just lip service. Training and development is absolutely key for employee retention and good morale. It is more than a perk. Support for developing employees must come from the very top. Sir Richard Branson says: “Your employees' desire to learn gives you and other entrepreneurs a competitive advantage”, and like-minded CEOs should task one of the most senior Board members with partnering HR directors, to ensure the training and development programme is the best it can be. If, sadly, you do not feel you have that support, find a champion on the Board who will partner you – maybe the person you report to or one of your most talented and energetic non-execs.

“There is a tendency for some Board members, dinosaurs and young guns alike, to think they know it all and that their training journey is over. Rubbish! There is plenty to learn, every single day”

Board members should walk the walk as well as talk the talk. Expect them to lead by example and to support their teams, and associates, in their efforts to develop their skill sets. There is a tendency for some Board members, dinosaurs and young guns alike, to think they know it all and that their training journey is over. Rubbish! There is plenty to learn, every single day. Yes, I would expect a Board Member or C-level Boss to know their stuff inside-out and to have a good sense of their own weaknesses and strengths. But, there are always technical and regulatory developments to keep up with, and a need for ongoing management training or coaching to maximise our own personal effectiveness. Require each Board member to submit their own personal development plan every year and ensure they stick to it to maximise the strength of the training culture in the corporate DNA.

If training and development is high on the corporate agenda, and if it is an integral part of the culture, managers should be well placed to support the ongoing training and development of their teams. The Board should support HR directors in setting an appropriate budget for the firm and to breaking this down into appropriate allocations. This could be a budgeted amount per head, or per team. Budgets could also be set by type of training, especially in firms where keeping abreast of new regulations or health & safety standards is key. HR directors should expect full trust in their ability to find and retain the best training and development providers, and any support they require in doing so. In turn, HR departments need to support and empower managers and subject matter experts to find the right training and development providers to ensure their teams are the best they can be. Managers need to be supported in committing the time required for proper training and ongoing learning.

HR directors should use the Board to monitor and measure the performance of the company’s training plans. HR directors should produce a management information pack which is presented to, and reviewed by, the Board on a quarterly basis. A good pack will include qualitative details about the company’s approach and practices regarding training, education and development. It will be supported by detailed metrics regarding: the number of staff trained, how many days and the spend per head. A strong Board will want to see how the training budget has affected productivity and error rates, as well as employee satisfaction and retention. The training programme should also be supporting the development and promotion of employees up, and through, the organisation. Does the data support this? In addition to the requisite product, sales, technical and management training, employees also need to be fully supported in terms of diversity, health and safety and regulatory compliance. Does the company’s data regarding employment tribunals and external litigation reflect a healthy attitude towards employee development? The relevance of ongoing training in an organisation is blindingly obvious to HR directors but by using their Board effectively, they can bump up the importance, the amount of buy-in and potentially, the budget as well, to the overall benefit of the company.

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