The Website and Blog of HR Author and Speaker Lori Kleiman

Investing in People


An employee comes in and asks to attend the latest conference in their field ….and it happens to be in San Diego in February. There is a golf tournament the day before that your top supplier has invited them to play in – but that means an extra night in the 5 star resort the conference is being held at. As a Chicago based business, you are suspicious of the real motive! And likely – the motive is deep – education, relaxation, time away from office, playing golf – and maybe some additional education.

Should you say yes or no? That all depends on the person doing the asking. Trips such as this can be a great way to show a top performer that they are a valued member of the team. They can be a way to allow high-potential employees to stretch their wings and represent your organization with supplies and competitors. In most cases, they will learn far more then the educational sessions can offer.

Conferences are one way we invest in our people. For less developed talent, you can certainly suggest the option of a local program that can be attended at a reduced cost. Or ask them to work with their manager to create a plan that will allow them to attend this type of event in the future.

Human resources should be creating an annual budget for training and development. The conversations of who is going to what conference should occur at the annual performance review meeting and be included in the budget for that department. Business should have a training budget and treat that as any other important cost of doing business. According to an article by Bassi, and McMurrer, “How’s Your Return on People?”, which appeared in the Harvard Business Review in 2004, organizations that invest in training and development outperform the market by up to 35 percent. That is certainly a number worth considering. For this reason, it is critical that you expect your HR department to own training, development, and growth throughout the corporation.

A well-crafted development program should include all facets of learning. Your HR executive should not just be relying on expensive in-house training or university programming. You should expect a combination of on-the-job training, mentoring, use of community resources, and other out-of-the-box, and often low cost, options. For example, can customer service attend networking meetings to begin to hone their sales skills?  Are there avenues for teaching at community organizations that would help your high potential employees develop training skills? Do you reward managers for volunteer opportunities that hone their management and leadership skills? Set these expectations each year and then track successes and failures to be measured as you would all other executives.

Training and development is not a black hole of expense. It is a way to increase the knowledge base of your organization and send a message to employees that they are valued members of the organization’s future.

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