Opinion: organisations in the GCC can cut training costs without compromising on quality

Author: Peter Lawrence | Date: 23 Mar 2016

Scrutiny of training costs offer opportunity to reassess its suitability and effectiveness, says Peter Lawrence

Peter Lawrence - opinionUntil recently, the training budget for leadership and management development in the Gulf seemed limitless. With value for money low on the agenda, little attention was paid to getting the right people on the courses.
Examples of waste were commonplace: delegates staying in the best hotels while on the course when they lived locally; trainers ‘imported’ from overseas at great expense, with little attempt to transfer skills to the in-house team; almost no attempt made to follow up with delegates after the event; and evaluation of the programme limited to ‘happy sheets’ (the delegate’s impression of the course).
The region is not unique in its willingness to spend big. An estimated USD$14 billion is spent on leadership development each year in the USA, according to a recent report from McKinsey.
But in the new economic environment organisations in the GCC are striving to reduce costs, including those associated with leadership and management development programmes.
This is an opportunity to reduce costs and re-focus training programmes to maximise their impact. It need not mean a reduction in their quality.
When we surveyed organisations in the GCC, it was surprising that many leadership and management programmes did not differentiate between nationals and expats. Experienced expats, often already in leadership positions, were put through the same training offered to developing nationals. This seems wasteful; the expats in management positions should already have the skills needed. If not, why were they hired?
Organisations are also waking up to the importance of pre-selection – getting the right people on the courses, using ‘development centres’. Relying on nominations from a line supervisor or manager, without any supporting data, is risky because these choices may be political.
Course content also needs to be revitalised and tailored to take account of the cultural nuances of the region. Those delivering the training need an in-depth understanding of this and ideally to have lived and worked in the region. All too often the only thing the trainer knows about the country is how to find it on Google Maps.
Finally, the evaluation is missing. Having invested a lot of time and money, employers need to be confident that this will have a pay back. It is not sufficient just to know that delegates enjoyed the training experience. What have they learned and how are they applying the learning? Post training follow-up is critical to ensure the learning is applied and any barriers to application of knowledge are removed.
Peter Lawrence is a chartered fellow of the CIPD and operations director at Human Capital Department.