It seems to be business as usual when business executives unwittingly waste their money when procuring employee training and development initiatives. That is the result of research undertaken by Scott Watson, Managing Director of UK and Bahrain based Summit Consulting and Training.

Mr Watson, whose supporters include some of the world’s leading companies and eminent academics recently polled one-hundred human resources executives to identify how they measured their return on investment from their training and development initiatives.

And after analysing the responses, Watson claimed, “There is significant room for improvement in procurement procedures, establishing precise success criteria before commencing training projects and developing greater responsibility for the delivery of enhanced results from the training provider.”

With corporate training budgets being reduced or even slashed entirely during the current economic climate, many under pressure human resources directors are finding that the goals they have been set by company executives before the downturn, are still expected to be delivered, even though funding is scarce.

So what can business leaders do to achieve a better return on their investment in time and of course, budget? Watson recommends that time invested at the outset to identify and select potential training partners can pay big dividends. “There is a big difference between hiring a training provider who will deliver a few days training, and appointing a trusted training partner who will collaborate fully and share ownership for the results you achieve,” he said. “The focus must be as much on what benefits will be realised in terms of measurable improvements in effectiveness as it is on the cost of the training programme.’

The research also identified that 74% of those polled who opted for an off-the-shelf soft-skills training package were less than satisfied with the level of value added to their organisation. “These two factors speak volumes when linked to quality and value for money,” continues Watson.

“An off-the-shelf package is focused largely on what the provider wants to teach your organisation rather than on what matters most, which is what your organisation needs to learn so it can improve its effectiveness” And in regards to the perceived low value in terms of value added to the organisation, Watson takes a very clear stance. “If a training programme is to add genuine value to an organisation, it is vital that the buyer and provider collaborate openly and honestly to establish how the learning will benefit the client, not just in terms of short-term boosts in performance, but longer-term, sustainable improvements. He continues, “Without a clear goal in mind from the start, and responsibilities allocated for embedding the learning back in the real world of work, virtually any well-intended training programme will fail to deliver any value or return on investment.”

But what steps can busy business leaders take to reduce the risk of wasting their hard-earned budget and maximise their potential for achieving something worthwhile from their investment? Watson’s advice is straightforward, “Stop looking at colourful brochures and start looking for proof of competence, a strong track record of high client satisfaction and willingness to be held accountable for delivering business benefits rather than just training.”