Reason to Train

I just recently went through an excellent presentation about some workforce programs in an American fast food company and how they encourage their employee’s learning.  The company is huge, having higher sales revenue than the national products of some countries, operating about 40 000 restaurants worldwide.  I was impressed with the results achieved with careful planning of targets and the means, how to meet these.  Maybe there is some truth in the saying: “ Small opportunities are often the beginning of great achievements.”

Programs are designed inter alia to make improvements into attrition rates of the personnel, which is a big concern, typically for the operators in the fast food industry.  To understand the proportions of their challenges we have to understand the scope of their recruiting needs.  Their operations need about 1 million new employees to be recruited each year. It is understandable.

how much the company could benefit, if the personnel would stay longer with them.  The company wanted to create new perspectives for their personnel by designing desirable education-to-career pathways for adult learners as means in their learning programs. The company has tried to engage their employees by effective supporting of their adult learners when they on- and off-ramp between education and employment. The impact of these programs has been very good.   As the most important results they have found, that the employees choose to stay significantly longer in the company and that they find benefits in lower attrition rates.  The benefits of the impact of these programs can be verified by increased revenue of the restaurants and even ROI calculations confirm the positive financial effects of these programs.  Careful planning of the training content and respectful treatment of the personnel are not only means to an end, what could be lower attrition rates. The personnel can feel, that the company is concerned about the welfare of their workforce and this improves the atmosphere within the company and leads to improved results exceeding the naked ROI -results.  If you start looking for benefits this way, you might be surprised to find more benefits, than you were initially looking for.

Although this type of hospitability business requires big investments into tailored training programs, like in this case, it bears all the hallmarks of successful learning programs. These are in brief: Definition of learning targets and selecting the analysis methods to be used.  Measuring of learning results, gathering the learning data into databases, where the real time progress can be monitored.  After that you have to utilize the collected learning scores and to deliver insights to all relevant persons in the organization, who should be interested in this data.  The collected skills- and learning results data provide deep inside knowledge into the depths of the talent pool of your company. You can get information through a detailed analyzes framework for ROI calculations. Based on data availability in the company, different ROIs can be calculated for three important business outcomes at level one:

  • ROI in the form of Increased Revenue
  • ROI in the form of Reduced Costs
  • ROI of Employees/Education Investment

As an example about the multilayered form of the benefits to be received, ROI in the form of Increased Productivity can be achieved by two independent level two items as follows:

  • Maximized Productivity
  • Realization of Indirect Benefits

Realization of Indirect Benefits can be further divided into four level three items:

  • Employee Engagement
  • Customer Satisfaction
  • Brand Recognition
  • Loyalty

From the above mentioned example you can see, that the benefits can be reported in a very detailed level. As it seems for me, this is done for serving benefits in their specific business.  They have reported in the presentation, that the biggest benefits they have received lie in the employees, who choose to stay significantly longer in the company and this leads to lower attrition rates. On top of these other critical measures, like an improved turnover and increased cost savings have been recorded. The same is valid for different learning courses and learning paths in other companies. This case, we have described, has been carried out in an elaborate way that requires so much resources, that only a minority of companies can bear the investment. The consultants of the company have introduced tailored software solutions for the analytics. We are of opinion that many companies should consider seriously this kind learning approach coated with sophisticated out-of-the-box analytics in their own business. There is at least one product available, which can meet most of these needs at a reasonable cost.   Please have a closer look at Boudin Skills Analytics Software for finding benefits for your company.

Written by Kari Hartikainen, Sales, Boudin Oy

What Can You Benefit from Analyzing Skills

Present-day companies have in their hands tons of valuable information which is waiting to be used purposefully. Business days are normally too hectic for having enough time to sit in peace and have thoughts how to exploit all the gathered data in different formats. The fact, that the data is not available in a structured way is normality and It doesn’t make the situation any better for HR- and learning professionals, who might be able to make sense of the vast amount of stored data. The cloud storages and the company owned blades are also full of training scores.  The different datasets have a variable quality and are unrelated in relevance to each other.  Finding a common denominator in this data and making sense of it, are the issues we want to concentrate on in this writing. 

Employee training is done in companies according to their short and long term business needs. Endless meetings are needed for making training programs, which are designed to meet these requirements. External resources are often involved in this endeavor where content developers are needed and a serious amount of money and time has to be invested. To steer businesses efficiently requires continuous flows of reliable and valid information from all business functions. These demands make us to think again about how to access the value of all the available learning scores. How those numbers could create business benefits when properly used by the HR management together with the different business lines, especially sales.  We think, that a better utilization of existing training scores could be worthwhile. 

And the good news is, that learning data utilization is not so time consuming as people generally think. Learning scores are collected from repositories which are already existing and downloaded to be used by skills analytics software and to be related with business results. This way we have established a feed-back loop from the different training results back to the HR- and business line functions. This modest operation gives to HR- and training professionals, as well as business line management valuable analytics about the status of skills within their company. This information can easily give answers to many questions which have been too difficult in the past. The analytics provides wide possibilities for detailed what-if questions to be asked. These questions are of special interest to the business line management, because this kind of analytics give answers to many fundamental questions, which have been open and unanswered for a long time for many. Some tailor-made software for solving very complex, skills related problems exist, but they are property of renowned consulting companies and because of the high expenses involved only accessible for few wealthy companies. Certainly, HR- and training professional are aware of these developments. Below you can find some typical situations explained, where skills analytics can provide valuable results.

Product skills are needed on all levels of the company.  When digging into training score data you can find different levels and distributions of skills in every location of the company. With Boudin analytics you get product specific insights to the skills and skills distributions of your personnel with the accuracy of your financial reporting. You get an understanding where you are in conformity with the needed skills and where you are short of skills. This abundance of pin point accuracy of informativity is totally different to the typical situation you face in most companies, where you have access to some lists, which describe only the names of individuals, who have either participated in a skills training course or, in rarer cases, who has successfully passed the course and when and where this course has taken place.  

With Boudin analytics, you get much more from the training of your employees. When you have set skill level requirements for certain products or services, you have the possibility to make comparisons between the targeted level of skills and the actual level of skills on every level and in every location of the company.  You know now, where possible improvement is needed and what exactly is needed to reach the set goals in skills.  This out-come you can only get, when you set learning requirements for training courses, when you set minimum acceptance levels for passing these courses and finally, you have to start utilizing course score data by analyzing it.  The HR professionals, who work with the training issues of the personnel appreciate accurate information about where and when certain individual needs to be trained, so that the skill level requirements of the person, workplace and the location are met. By planning training this way, HR- and training professionals can be connected with the sales management and they can share their expertise for improving the sales by providing accurate skills training cost effectively.

The sales management gives high value for being assured, that the current skills situation is on par with the requirements, without any need to dig into the skills issues. The fact, that the skills insights are based on sales report structure makes the acceptance of the enhanced training analytics much easier for those, who have to take part in the financing of the analytics.  When you can find out with the analytics, that more accurate training will improve your sales by a certain percentage, you can be sure, that the sales management wants to know, that there are enough and correct skills in all business locations currently, and they want to make action plans, how to ensure correct skills also in the future.  The training needs broken down by business location or sales channel have to be planned in advance and these plans have to be executed respectively.

The last but not the least matter is getting a comprehensive understanding of the connecting link between sales and skills. This link can provide awesome benefits by explaining, how much extra sales we could generate by specific training. This is only possible after we have procedures, for measuring skills and utilizing learning scores continuously, in place, working and finetuned.  Boudin analytics visualizes marginal utility for training, so that you can see how much you should invest into your training.  In the beginning the effect of invested training €uro or Dollar is stronger and with the increased saturation of skills it declines.  You know now, where you are. You don’t need to train your staff for marginal effects and because of this, money is not wasted.  We can now know, that sales are not skills restricted. Sales management can now concentrate on other business concerns having effects on sales, and there are plenty of them.

Written by Kari Hartikainen, Sales, Boudin Oy

How to Put Critical Questions When Analyzing Skills

I don’t remember who made the quote: “People Make Companies”, but it is well said and goes straight to the point. Before discussing about the detailed skills of the personnel, we have to touch the subject of company assets, but very briefly.  Companies take good care of their funds and because of that use sophisticated financial reporting for visualising the sources of their incoming and outgoing money flows, hoping for positive results, as required by the management.  

”Required by the management” means, that somebody in the organisation has set the targets, because the targets display the performance needs of the organisation and the company has to follow these guidelines in their operations.  Data management follows similar guidelines and in this writing we focus on systematically deploying HR training data by drilling deep into measuring learning issues. 

Ensuring good learning results in companies requires in the long run a systematic approach to ambitious target setting of learning results and full utilisation of collected training scores in Human resources.  By doing so, great opportunities open for companies. Putting all this into practise requires only a few simple procedures for collecting, treating and analysing the gathered training scores.  It is worth doing this, because of the big benefit – a possibility to increase product sales by systematic and targeted training of the employees.

As discussed above, HR training data is comparable to the company’s financial assets, accumulating from various sources.  Data, gathered from training courses designed by different content providers, can be compounded easily in a structured way, without endless work.  The real challenge is in making the training scores commensurate and comparable.  To be able to conclude this, you need correct tools or a toolbox for making scientifically solid comparisons between present, historical datasets giving you a possibility to make valid forecasts. These tools are available in the Boudin Analytics software.

One key element in the commensurate toolbox is a company specific baseline data for training scores, against which all comparisons are made. The personnel needs to have a certain level of skills, for being able to operate efficiently and to be able to bring the business home.  In this exercise both sample data and base line data have to be commensurate for compounding.  There are also strict requirements for base line data quality, which has to be solid in every respect and thoroughly verifiable. In other words, you have to rely on solid base line data for making training score results of different trainings comparable with each other. 

Let’s continue by starting to analyse training score results and observing, how the benefits can be extracted from the massive amounts of data. A comparison of test scores against the company´s base line data helps us to discover in which product, product line, business, or business location the skills of the personnel are not yet in line with set targets. This analysis can be done on a continuous basis, or when required, or needed, as ad-hoc analysis. 

All this is based on company specific, tailored dashboard views, which show you the status of product related skills in every business location with a granularity, which is in sync with your normal financial reporting.  Those locations, where the skills of the personnel are statistically different from the base line data are subjects for further analysis to clarify the reasons for this.  Getting this kind of alerts very early about locations where measures, like some extra training is needed, helps significantly training professionals to provide financially important results. Insights of skills are handled according to the same reporting structure, which is normal in the company’s product sales reporting.  The value of the analysis arises from wrapping of the products with the skills of your personnel.  Training your personnel with a clear product focus in mind for targeting improved product skill scores, results in significant possibilities to increase sales. 

There are many ways to proceed in this process.  We start by asking questions for getting unequivocal answers which ensure possible business benefits.  We like to see increased sales through improved product skills.  To be able to achieve this we have to understand the relationship between the product skills and the product sales.  When searching for relationships between these we can run what-if analyses in our skills pools to find out, how different skills are related with financial results.   When we know the relationships between skills and sales, we can see following valuable benefits arising from our databases by asking following questions:

  • What is the status of skills in the sales organization?
  • Where to make training investments for getting increased sales?
  • What are the estimated increased sales?
  • What is the rate of saturation in training?
  • How does the law of diminishing returns affect the training for different products and   locations?

After going through these critical questions shown above and taking the proposed actions, we can be sure that the sales are not restricted by lack of skills, or lack of training. The sales management doesn’t have to listen to the eternal allegations of training deficits and can concentrate in managing increased sales.

Written by Antti Kurki, Sales, Boudin Oy