Structuring talent development and measuring ROI

Written by
Changeboard Team

23 Jun 2016

23 Jun 2016 • by Changeboard Team

When Gary first moved into the European head of talent position the function was decentralised and countries were left to drive their own development curriculum as they saw fit. Such structures can prove costly for developed organisations where duplication and lost synergies add up. Training was paid for centrally and attendance was open to almost any who wished to partake.

Understanding the critical capabilities that drive performance and support career growth Gary made some sweeping changes. After engaging with the business to understand what actions would be the most valuable and helpful he went about identifying items that would initially get the best return. He subsequently made three key changes:  

"Pay for it yourself" philosophy - payment for training and development is made by the user (division) not centrally i.e. zero budget all charge back. 

Formal participation - participation is based on being part of a formal development plan. 

Measurement -  performance is measured prior and post to training by the trainee’s manager and is reported back to the business. This method is called the “7 Squared” method which combines 7 behavioural assessment criteria and a 7 point rating of performance scale.

The change in payment for many talent leaders and organisations could be viewed as controversial with critics asking, “Isn’t this risky?…What if the business doesn’t want to pay for learning services anymore and/or channel the funds to other activities? What if the function is handicapped by a decreasing number of those willing to engage with it, as they are now given a choice? What if subsequently the function eventually ceases to exist?” Dramatic perhaps but valid questions and risks Gary admits do exist. However, such risks are necessary to shift to the learning function and the business to both taking accountability for what is delivered and ensuring there is a return on investment. The pressure on the learning function to deliver a great service ensures this happens and when this is achieved word spreads in the organisation and marketing of the ‘service’, and therefore use of the function, takes care of itself. 

Gary views participants being able to demonstrate what they have learned as being critical to the process. So when someone is nominated, before they go on one of the programs, they are measured by their Manager on seven behavioural outcomes that are relevant to that skill or capability that is being taught. Managers also stipulate their expectations post training and submit this assessment and expectation as part of the process. 90 days after the program/training the trainee is assessed by their manager to evaluate these seven behaviours again. Within Amgen on average there is a 20% to 25% increase in performance based on manager assessment. A great metric to share with the business! 

What about the ability of the managers to deliver an accurate assessment at both stages you ask? All new managers on joining or on promotion go through a two day “This is what we expect” program. They are taught and tested on basic processes, how to deliver performance assessments and how to set clarity with team members.

If you're thinking of making the journey

How to make the ‘Pay-for-it-yourself’ philosophical shift?

Talk business, stakeholders are interested in expenditure and ROI! By establishing a clear picture on the state of learning such as cost, attendance and illustrating no clear measure on return it is easier to convey what could be achieved with a different model. At Amgen the VP of HR for Europe was a program sponsor which provided a direct communication channel with the regional management committee on program progress. Gary then engaged with country HR directors to educate in-country managers. Having historically held a country HR leadership position Gary knew all too well what stakeholders wanted and said “There are two key lessons I learned from having been the HR director for UK & Ireland. Listen to the business and don’t forget to measure! Knowing the value of what you have achieved makes it easier to essentially market the value your function and it becomes a lot easier to do even more”. 

How long does it take to create such a program? 

At Amgen the first curriculum was built in six months with a procurement process running concurrently to secure external vendors for outsourced elements of the programs. The new program and process launched in nine months and has been established for almost three years now. The management development program runs at 102% capacity and has a strong internal brand in the business. A key factor in implementation timelines is deciding on the in-sourced and out-sourced blend. At Amgen only soft skills like negotiation and project management are outsourced and it follows a “Teach Leadership yourself” approach where all leadership training is run by people who are leaders within the business themselves.

What about the program content? 

As with many great development programs it is not heavily teaching based but doing based. The program provides a safe environment where participants can engage with paid actors in ‘real-life’ scenarios to put into practice the lessons taught. 

How to make sure managers are effective assessors?

This in part starts with hiring the right leaders but Gary admits this is a longer term strategy within this process. Key is the compulsory induction and training all new hires and those promoted get. They are all trained on the “7 Squared” method and how to create a development plan for team members to in effect improve their job performance. There is also a strong framework in place in terms of guidance notes and on rating performance based on the 7 point scale. Assessment criteria are very specific and observable behaviours seen in practice.

Some of the lessons learned in making the shift

Drive accountability for development to staff and managers – it is their performance and their career.

Seek to understand and spend time on this early on – visit every country, listen to ideas, meet business and HR stakeholders and gather evidence on their issues, concerns and prioritise well. You cannot do it all at once.

Bring it all together in a compelling case for change – identify the pain points and inefficiencies using business language such as cost, capacity, quality and performance. Then set out a long term phased plan for implementation with clear KPI’s and follow up on these regularly.

Amgen is a great example of a business that has leveraged the value from the effective positioning of its learning service and continued measurement. As organisations across industries simultaneously evaluate learning spend and increase expectations on results, the ability to measure ROI and have the business as a fighting advocate is fast becoming essential.