Investing in HR and Training - an Investment in a Stronger Future

Maria Zahra's article on The Times of Malta. 

Training is an investment but it is also important to make sure that there is adequate return on this investment, something that only HR Training professionals can help ensure,” explains Maria Zahra, HR Consultant at MISCO.

What is the situation of HR in Malta at the moment?

I would say HR is thriving well at the moment. MISCO has just compiled its Annual HR Development Survey through which we have found that over 70% of organisations in Malta have a person or more than one person responsible for the HR function. An even more important figure that emerges from this statement is that a total of 87% of the respondents have seen the HR function take on a larger role over the past twelve months. The most common HR areas which organisations focused on this year were employee relations, recruitment, and performance management. Less focus was given to job evaluation, organisation design/structure, training and development and health and safety, when compared to last year.

To what extent do companies tend to consider HR at strategic level?

Most companies seem to hold HR very highly in fact most HR departments seem to be made to participate at a strategic level in the running of business. In fact, when it comes to various management areas, 70% reported their involvement in budgeting, 52% in business planning and 48% in organisation design and structure. We feel that this augurs very well for the profession.

An important aspect of HR is Training and Development. To what extent is this area being given the attention it merits?

MISCO’s experience in the field of HR has enabled us to be actively involved in providing various business sectors with a catered service that guarantees the effectiveness and efficiency of our client companies. As such this has put us in an advantageous position to be able to say that from what we see, many companies are still finding it difficult to understand the importance of training their employees. Time constraints were the most common reasons for organisations not providing learning and development opportunities over the past twelve months. Where there was some sort of training, the most popular learning interventions used were conferences, workshops and seminars and in-house development.

Do you feel that training employees is still being sought after in a rather casual manner?

Unfortunately yes. One of the most common mistakes takes place when employers just decide to send all their frontline employees to a generic course on a particular topic, for the sake of giving training – as though they just want to honour a commitment. Good and proper training, today will always cost money and this attitude not only is a waste of time, money and resources but is also ineffective because it would not be addressing the real needs and issues that the company or the organisation could be facing. Naturally, training fills this very important gap.

What is employers’ general attitude towards training?

We regularly meet employers who approach us for their training requirements. However, in our initial introductory meetings with them, we notice that there is not enough knowledge about the need to assess training requirements. It also it becomes evident that some of them are unclear about the purpose of training in general, what type of training would be ideal for their employees and what they ultimately want to achieve.

At MISCO, we can help these companies when they approach us to conduct training and development courses for their employees. The best ways of understanding what the training needs of employees are, is by auditing their current skills and by identifying future skills needs that could arise due to the natural evolvement process of the company.

How does this happen?

Of course there are actual techniques for assessing training requirements. We usually recommend a fully-fledged skills audit. We first conduct a job analysis survey where we see what skills are required for the job to be done well. This is followed by another survey through workshops involving employees to analyse and understand what their current skills. Only this can help us, and the employer, understand the required skills visa-a-vis their present jobs.

Another method we usually employ involves assessment centres whereby we bring groups of employees together and carry out a number of exercises and simulations such as case studies and psychometric assessments through which our moderators identify any areas of improvement.

How willing are employees usually to attend such courses and assessments?

First and foremost, if employees are happy at work, they are going to want to be better at what they do. Many employees do feel the need to improve and most times, they also become aware and are conscious of which areas they need to improve upon. Their feedback therefore is important and needs to be considered when planning the way forward especially in terms of future training and development initiatives.

When all audits and assessments have been completed, a training plan needs to be set. We sit with the employer and his HR team, decide on the best training interventions to be used, time resources and budget all costs involved. With a plan in hand, we then move on to implementation.

Another crucial stage is the evaluation process which happens once all the training has been implemented. This can take place either by carrying another audit, or through on-the-job observation, or mystery shopping, always depending on the nature of the work.

When would be the best time for a company to conduct training?

There is always room for training. It all depends on how willing a company is to invest in its employees’ further development. Training should not be seen as a disruption from work but if planned well and hand in hand with professional trainers, this could become a seamless continuation of the job itself.

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