Focus your PD Program on business drivers to get the best results

I’ve talked in high level terms about the investment made by a business in a good PD Program, but let’s break it out a bit so that we know exactly what we are talking about – and then we can start the discussion about ‘value’.


Measuring the cost of Professional Development

Let’s say, for the sake of simplicity, that you have a business with 50 people in it and that you have a daily opportunity cost of about $1,000.  The variable number of days that we’ll use for your PD Program is 20, so what have we got?

50 people * 23 days = 1150 days

1150 days * $1,000 = $1,150,000

Right, so with your small-to-mid sized business of 50 people, you have just realized that you are managing a million dollar program.  And that’s before any costs are placed on top of the opportunity cost – such as travel, study material, conference costs, training fees, etc.  So, for this article let’s call the cost of our program $1,250,000.

And as you are aware, each year, when you sit down to do your business planning, the board, directors, and other members of your team will be expecting you to provide some clarity into how this investment will be managed so that it provides the greatest return to the business.  But what is value?  And how do you start to define it?


Alignment with Organizational Drivers

When we talk about value, it is always from the view of an entire ‘organization’ as opposed to any single parties within it because, in a ‘healthy’ program, the interests of the individuals are pretty much in alignment across the organization.  These drivers are going to be things like:

  1. Make a good profit
  2. Have satisfied customers

With the organizational drivers defined, it’s all about orienting projects around the common goal of achieving them.  These projects will not only identify the path to achieving those corporate goals, but will also lay the foundation for building the culture of the organization.  In the case of Readify, we have some drivers and projects that relate to "being smart" and other levels of thought leadership.

Letting the tail wag the dog

When you start looking at your PD Program, the easiest thing is to "hand out the days" and let the individuals reconcile their own account.  While this might work for a small, family-style business of 15 or less people, it becomes the equivalent of letting the tails wag the dog when you start getting any number of ‘layers’ involved.  To be fair on all parties, focus not on any individual but on those organizational projects and drivers that we spoken about.

Just like any good project, start by talking to the stakeholders about their requirements and then use those requirements to build good, solid scenarios.  If your company is aligned to a common goal, then having scenarios that are built atop business goals will actually be the best fit for the individuals anyway.  Within Readify, the example here would be:

Requirement: Having staff who are capable of delivering high quality training on .NET readiness topics.

Scenario: The Training manager places a requirement on the PD Program for the "inventory mix" of trainers that they require.

Outcome: With the agreement of each individual, the PD manager allocates these PD requirements against individuals to fulfil the requirement of the Training manager.

In this example, all parties have benefited:

  • The organization is able to deliver high quality readiness training
  • The training manager has been able to get the right mix of trainers to ensure that they can run their desired programs
  • The staff who have goals of becoming trainers and presenters are able to get help in achieving that goal



For family sized businesses (<20 people), what I’ve spoken about here may seem a bit arse about face.  However, you will find that to deliver meaningful value to all stakeholders – and to ensure that your million dollar investment generates a good return – you must address the issue of how to create value from your PD Program by looking at the business drivers within your organization.  And by tying the outcomes to the outcomes of the business, you can ensure that you have the whole business to focus on helping ensure the success of your PD Programs!


~ by D on January 14, 2008.

3 Responses to “Focus your PD Program on business drivers to get the best results”

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  2. Good grief – how many buzzwords could you put into a post to say "Employee development could be at the cost of revenue. At the same time employee development is necessary for attracting/retaining good staff. So we need to find a middle ground where employees benefit, and so does the company"?
    That said, Avanade, with about 6000 FTEs, still manages 120 hours of budgeted training time per consultant. Part of the trick is using "bench time" (I"m sure you have some of that at Readify), so it isn\’t entirely revenue foregone.

  3. Hi, the goal wasn\’t to create buzzword soup, it was simply to set a platform that I can build on in future articles.  You are quite right in that I could have simply put it as:
        "Employee development could be at the cost of revenue"
    However, the reason for not doing that is that it totally overlooks the fact that PD *is* a neccessary \’investment\’ that needs to be made.  In taking the long route, I hoped to show that it\’s only by focussing on the business drivers, that you end up with the best match against the interests of all.
    Finally, "yes" bench time can be used, of course.  I\’m hoping that now I have a good base of knowledge that I can start to move up the chain a bit and write about more detailed sections of the program – scheduling would be one of those.
    Sorry that you didn\’t enjoy the article, I\’ll aim to do a better job of writing the next one.  Thanks for the feedback!

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