T+D April 09 //Intelligence//

Canada’s Lagging Productivity

By Michael Laff

Canadian organizations score low on training survey.

Canada is often viewed as a model society for its healthcare, respect for the environment, and moderate political climate. But in terms of training and worker productivity, the country lags behind many developing countries.

According to a recent survey by Proudfoot Consulting, Canada ranks low in worker productivity. The survey measured everything from days of training per year to time spent by managers supervising staff.

Employees in Canada receive only eight days of training annually—possibly the most daunting figure in the report. This number put Canada only slightly ahead of Britain, which placed last with 7.6 days of training per year.

While the low level of employee training stands out, Canada also ranks last among countries surveyed in terms of how often the organization assesses its training needs. Only 55 percent of Canadian organizations regularly assess training needs, compared with 84 percent in Brazil and 83 percent in India. Some of the other countries in the survey include China, Russia, South Africa, and the large European economies.

The amount of training days workers received was not broken down into industry sectors so it is difficult to pinpoint which industries are lagging behind.

“Mining and natural resources are big players in the country’s industrial sector,” says Samuel Zusmann, vice president of marketing at Proudfoot. “Employees in mining receive 15 days of training each year, and managers receive 12.5 days, so workers in other sectors are not getting a lot of training at all.”

Canada also falls far behind in terms of how well incentive plans are made consistent with corporate goals. Only 59 percent of Canadians participating in the survey agree that such is the case, far behind leaders India and Brazil, where 83 and 80 percent, respectively, see alignment between incentives and corporate goals.

Supervisors in Canada devote only 6 percent of their time to active supervision and training of their staff. This is several points below the worldwide average.

Workers spend 15 percent of their time on activities not directly related to immediate business needs. According to report analysts, if managers in Canada were to shift some of that time to supervision, productivity would increase by 3 percent.

One area where Canada fares better than others is the number of unproductive days workers spend each year—65 days—which is significantly lower than the worldwide average of 89.5 unproductive days per year.

Another bright spot for Canada is the low level of paperwork requiring managers’ attention. Canadian managers report that only 10 percent of the regular reports they receive are unnecessary to do their jobs.

There is cause for optimism that low productivity rates can be reversed. Only 7 percent of Canadian managers reported that employees are resistant to change regarding improvements in productivity, making them the lowest ranked among all countries surveyed.

“Canadian workers are very receptive to change,” Zusmann says. “The field is plowed. Organizations just need to work the soil.”


T+D April 09 //Trends//

The Value of Coaching:

A New Trend in an old Friend

By Ann Pace

By and large, employers today can’t simply rely on flashing the Benjamins to entice staff to work harder. However, financial cutbacks in the workplace shed new light on coaching as an effective and inexpensive employee engagement and development tool.

In fact, most employees welcome being challenged and guided by their coaches.

According to the recent study “Coaching Conundrum” by BlessingWhite, a New Jersey-based consulting organization, 20 percent of employees cited being “stretched beyond what I thought I could do” as the coaching action valued most.

Cathy Earley, coaching practice leader at BlessingWhite, explains that coaching is the act of helping someone determine how best to achieve personal job goals, build professional skills and expertise, and meet the goals of the organization.

The study shows that employees appreciate when coaches push them to work beyond daily expectations. Earley suggests that stretch assignments are welcomed by employees within a tumultuous workplace climate.

“They’re opportunities for individuals to get out of a rut and distinguish themselves among colleagues. Individuals who are coached to think beyond their normal boundaries are the very ones who can turn companies around in this type of marketplace,” she says.

The study includes responses from more than 2,000 managers and employees in 17 countries. According to participants, guided independent work and honest dialogue are additional coaching elements they find most important. Respondents say establishing specific performance goals is the least valuable coaching action.

These responses confirmed researchers’ assumption that informal interactions, guidance, and direction between managers and their direct reports are some of coaching’s best attributes.

Earley explains that a coaching relationship built on honesty and trust can also serve as a stabilizing force for an employee who is concerned about his future.

“A manager acting as a coach can acknowledge that her employees are worried, create a forum for addressing concerns, and then direct them back to the business at hand,” Earley says.

 T+D April 09 //Talent//


Prioritizing the People

By Aparna Nancherla

Though many executives cite their employees as the real strength behind their companies, in actuality, the processes associated with managing workers could use an overhaul.

Several workplaces show little or no integration of multiple links in the learning chain when it comes to developing and maintaining their employees’ careers.

A Training Industry and Convergys report on the state of talent management within organizations found that the majority of organizations believe that their talent management strategy is ineffective and places their business at risk due to the lack of integration and the absence of any long-term business strategy.

The data collected was based on an online survey of 71 learning professionals from a variety of industries, the majority of which employed 1,000 or more individuals. Talent processes under review included learning, performance management, compensation, recruiting, and succession management.


“The finding that stood out was the issue associated with the integration of talent processes,” says Doug Harward, CEO of Training Industry. We actually see in some of the data that there’s a risk in doing it.”

Most businesses have a training function that oversees issues such as scheduling, instructional design, and delivery, and an HR function that oversees issues such as recruiting, staffing, compensation, and benefits.

Harward notes, “The strategy of talent management is to integrate both training and human resource processes to create a more efficient model in how you recruit, develop, and retain employees.”

Only one in four respondents reported full integration between any two talent management processes. The most integrated processes were performance management and learning, performance management and compensation, and recruiting and compensation. The least integrated talent process with any other area was succession management.

Not all processes need to be integrated. Learning and compensation are a prime example. Harward cites that the pay-for-skills movement of the 1990s, which proposed that compensation be linked to proficiency, failed miserably, and now, more companies are leaning toward forming a stronger connection between learning and performance, or pay-for-performance.

The primary factors limiting integration of talent processes were budgetary constraints (70 percent) and lack of buy-in from management (61 percent).

“I think the problem is that talent management is a very large activity in corporations, but it has traditionally been managed in silos,” says Harward. “We don’t know what the business processes are for talent management.”

Many companies have decentralized training that is associated with separate business units. For example, IT will own IT training, while HR only controls leadership and professional development training. Centralization of the learning function has not been accomplished.

Particularly the case in companies with dispersed workforces (such as CISCO, Boeing, and Oracle), each segment vies to retain ownership of its own activities.

“You have executives who have a lot of authority and a lot of budgetary responsibility, and they don’t want to give up their silos,” says Harward.

Many leaders are also hesitant to start integrating processes because of uncertainty about whether they will get the expected results.

“They don’t perceive integration of talent management processes as offering any value yet because they don’t have enough success stories to prove that it works,” adds Harward.

T+D April 09 //Workplace// 

The People-Less Office

By Michael Laff

You’ve heard of the paperless office—that green idea to be achieved someday far into the future.

A more realistic initiative is the people-less office. In an increasingly mobile world, a number of major Fortune 500 companies are literally expanding workspace, outside the office walls. Organizations are adopting “alternative workplace strategies,” at an accelerated rate throughout the last five years.

According to a survey conducted by CoreNet, 86 percent of respondents reported having some kind of flexible workspace program with 40 percent of those starting five or more years ago.

Nearly half of the employees participating in the initiative gave up an office entirely. Employees need not worry about long commutes, and organizations receive payoff in the form of reduced real estate costs and a smaller carbon footprint. An overwhelming number of respondents believe the movement will gain strength over the next three years.

“Companies were caught with excess office space from 2001 to 2005,” says Richard Kadzis, director of special projects for CoreNet. “They are paring back.”

Kadzis says that there are several reasons why the alternative work space arrangement is taking hold. The costs of maintaining office space is reduced, resources are conserved, and the work-life balance needs of the current workforce are met.

The expansion of the business day with electronic devices, added to the inclusion of international employees, has changed the dynamic of the 9-to-5 of a generation ago.

As expected, middle managers are slow to embrace the change. The overworked supervisor fears that employees who work at home are watching daytime television or seeking better daycare. Another factor contributing to resistance is the lack of daily contact between employees and managers.

“They are the most difficult to convince,” Kadzis says of middle managers. “The thinking is, ‘If I can’t see them, I can’t manage them.’”

It is unlikely that the whole world will be telecommuting in the next five years. Offices in the future will have a higher percentage of workers who spend more daytime hours working at home. However, regular meetings among staff will be scheduled once or twice a week. Some organizations now utilize “home-based collaboration centers” whereby employees can meet on neutral ground between home and office.

“There will always be a need for a place,” Kadzis says. “What people are realizing is that work can happen anytime, anyplace.”

T+D April 09 //fast fact//

Training Gets a Lift

Microsoft recently announced a job training effort aimed at giving technical skills to as many as 2 million Americans over the next three years.

The software company is offering free certification and other technical training in stages, beginning with the state of Washington. The second component of “Elevate America,” available online immediately, is a website designed to help people with the basics such as creating a resume and sending e-mail.

Microsoft’s move comes as U.S. unemployment figures have risen dramatically, a small fraction of which is attributed to Microsoft as the company announced its first companywide layoffs earlier this year.

As part of the Elevate America program, Microsoft is working with state and local governments and hopes to offer 1 million vouchers for e-learning and certification classes.

It is not clear just how much the program will cost Microsoft. The total value of the investments will depend on the number of vouchers that will be utilized, and the mix of courses and certifications taken, according to a company representative.

The investment also includes cash grant and software donations to community organizations to enhance their technology capacity to deliver these programs.

T+D April 09 //Info Graph//

Priming the Training Pump