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Return on Investing in People

Return on Investing in People

It was long ago that I learned in reading Good to Great by Jim Collins that shared values creates team and in my experience, that creates a culture of performance.

I find if I’m not sure on how to act regarding a particular decision I will often refer to our values and our strategic pillars – it is surprising how often we use them.  One of our three values at The Big Red Group is simply ‘push for greatness’.  

We know that education is a cornerstone for evolving as a person and I encourage all of my employees to get out of their comfort zone and #pushforgreatness.

Learning and growing is essential for any member of the team wanting to #pushforgreatness, when it comes to training and development spend in business, I will always remember what a HR Leader said to me over 10 years ago. She had reviewed our training and development spend at the time and remarked ‘per person, it is very generous, upward of what many corporations would spend’. That’s good I thought to myself. She then posed a question to me (one I’d never really thought of before) and I will ask you the same question:

What is the bottom line return you are getting for the investment in your people? 

There are two relevant questions to ask when employees request training:

  1. What is the relevance of the education?
  2. How will the education be applied when the participant returns to work?

As a company, we have chosen to make available to every commencing person access to the Gallup Strengths Finder and the HDMI profiling tool. This has given us the tools and insights to lead based on what people are innately great at.

I recall one employee long ago asked to do elocution lessons (speech training). She was in sales and on the phone a lot and she told me that she wanted to get rid of her broad Australian twang. As such, over a period of months the expensive one-on-one coaching sessions took place. After she had completed the course successfully a new manager came on board, whom she did not get along with. Then, one Monday morning she arrived at the office and without so much as a goodbye to her peers she cleaned out her desk and left, taking with her my newly invested speech training.

Another example I remember was granting  an employee’s request to attend a technical development conference. My credit card statement had not even returned when he’d decided he had met an interesting organisation at the event and he was off.

There have been many examples over the years.

I remember speaking to my mentor at the time about it and he said that he had implemented a training guarantee payback scheme years ago. When he employed someone he asked that person to sign a document on the expected deliverables of the training for the organisation. The document also stated that if they leave the company within 12 months, a proportion (depending on the length of time) is repaid to the company.

I was told that this practice was quite common in major corporations. However when I presented the idea to my GMs, one particularly was not pleased (saying it made us look stingy.) I was told, why ‘punish’ everyone for the selfishness of a few past people.

In the end, running a business is not a democracy and sometimes you have to make decisions based on commercial returns not solely based on what people would like.

I am committed to the development of our people and always will be, but it has to be a two-way street.

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