As the saying goes, “you get out what you put in” – but this assumes you know what you are putting in, and you understand what you will get out.
This can often be a barrier when it comes to training investment. In reality, the ‘out’ can far outweigh the ‘in’, yet still the training budget line can be one of the first to be cut when times are tough. Businesses struggle to justify the costs in the short term, rather than looking at the longer-term opportunities for their consultancy.
But what can happen when you take the opposite approach, and align staff development to your long-term growth strategy?
Investing in staff training can yield good returns
Uniform, a Liverpool based consultancy, took this approach in 2013 with a Management Development Programme. At the time the company’s staff numbers were hovering in the late twenties and their turnover was just over £2 million. Uniform felt that in order for the consultancy to grow, the senior team needed to be developed into a management team who would develop a succession plan.
Having gone through a needs analysis of the business it became clear which areas needed more support, and which members of staff needed specific training, and in what areas.
12-month learning programme
A 12-month programme of learning was developed, combining internal shared learning, external consultants, bespoke learning modules plus identifying specific courses such as those run by the DBA, that staff would most benefit from. Learning areas and outcomes were catalogued so that learning modules could be matched against them to ensure that every part was covered.
Uniform doubled in size and added £1.5 million to revenue
Now, three years on, Uniform are over 50-strong, with revenues in excess of £3.5 million and with a second London office. Nick Howe, co-founder at Uniform, says that one of the key roles of the senior team as the developed into more managerial and leadership roles, was in planning a bespoke, year-long, professional development programme.
From tailored internal mentoring, to identifying external courses, every learning area was matched to outcomes and aligned to the four key areas of Uniform’s business strategy – client service, creativity, operations and business performance.
Success measures were built into the plan and included improvements in overall business performance (financial and non-financial measures), development and growth of key clients, and improvements in staff satisfaction.
You can’t rely purely on ‘doing great work’
A structured approach – like Uniform took – to assessing the needs of the business enables goals to be set and measured, which instills greater confidence in training investment by focusing on the expected returns.
If you rely purely on ‘doing great work’ you may get more clients, and they may be more profitable, but to underpin this you need to develop the skills within your consultancy to manage the increasing quantity and size of clients, to address increasing numbers of issues and opportunities, and to prepare for the complexities that arise from being a larger business.
Building your business from the bottom up through a structured development programme such as Uniform’s allows you to understand your strengths and weaknesses and address them in a coherent manner by investing in the right places. By better understanding the ‘in’ in your training investment, you’ll maximise the potential of your business and its long-term growth.
Adam Fennelow is head of services at the Design Business Association (DBA), www.dba.org.uk.