Q&A: Hazel Jackson: “Employee development is often seen as nice to have, rather than need to have”

Author: Criselda Diala-McBride | Date: 15 Mar 2016

It’s possible to get value for money on a tight budget when investing in talent, says the CEO of Biz Group

Hazel JacksonWhen the business environment gets tough and companies are forced to economise, training and development budgets are the first to feel the axe. HR’s absence in the boardroom also means that skills and development programmes often get relegated to the bottom of the corporate pile.
However, Hazel Jackson, CEO of Biz Group – a Dubai-based corporate training, teambuilding and business strategy company – says the cost of not investing in talent could be higher, especially when competitors are hoovering up the best and brightest candidates.

How can companies in the GCC get value for money on employee training and development?
There are two key things to consider. First, companies should make sure that learning and development leaders are clear on the performance requirements of employees and the associated metrics. Too often learning and development managers in the GCC rely on a weak training needs analysis that is not tailored to the needs of their organisation.
Second, the full cost of training – including the operational costs and impacts of pulling people out of the workplace – should be taken into full consideration. Many organisations in the region are quick to book multi-day training sessions, without considering how this will affect employees and their day-to-day operations.
In this digital era, the modern learner usually has very little spare time in their day for training and development. Companies have a responsibility to address this by implementing creative solutions that involve on-demand learning and bite-sized training. This can be done with efficient tools that ensure the implementation of continuous learning either at the workplace, or when on the move. These approaches are relatively new to the GCC, but will significantly help maximise return on investment.
What are employee development challenges are GCC firms encountering?
Because HR and learning and development [managers] don’t often have representation at board level, they can struggle to make development relevant and clearly linked to improved business performance. This disconnect positions employee development as a ‘nice to have’ rather than a ‘need to have’.
I’ve often heard the excuse, “the region is a transient environment so investing in employees is a waste of money”. But my question is: what is the cost of not investing in your employees?
While the region is often considered to have a revolving door, regional employment trends demonstrate that expats are staying longer in the GCC. The region is no longer a hardship posting; countries such as the UAE are leading the way in attracting foreign workers, so the ‘transient’ excuse is becoming less relevant.
With the increased prevalence of mixed cultures in the modern workforce, training and development becomes even more instrumental in accelerating the contribution of employees to business results. Developing clarity around business needs, and positioning employee development as a measurable solution that brings results, will enable GCC companies to get the budget and time commitment to turn these challenges into learning solutions.
What advice would you give HR managers who are keen to develop their workforce but are having their budgets squeezed?
Get creative. There are many continuous learning approaches out there that include free resources. The solution should be built for the modern workforce – combining carefully crafted learning modules that give employees exactly what they need to improve performance with less time spent out of the office. This used to be a costly exercise to set up, but not anymore.
Disruptive innovators have come to the rescue of the learning and development professional in the GCC, by harnessing technology to empower employees to take learning into their own hands. It’s just a matter of knowing where to find these solutions.