At most companies, it’s a natural progression to use the learning department to address skill gaps. However, according to a new study, this approach hasn’t been working for many companies, and executives place some of the blame within the HR and training department.
According to the “Accenture High Performance Workforce Study,” which is conducted every 18 months and surveys more than 250 senior executives, only 14 percent of respondents described the overall skill level of their organizations’ entire workforce as industry-leading. And only 20 percent of respondents said the vast majority of their employees understand their companies’ strategy and what’s needed to be successful in their industry.
Respondents also reported that even functions they consider critical—such as sales, customer service, finance and strategic planning—were not performing as strongly as they should. Of the executives who rated these functions as their most critical, only 25 percent said their sales function was performing at its top levels, and less than a third provided gave their customer-service, finance and strategic-planning functions high ratings.
So who’s to blame for these shortcomings? According to the study, executives attributed performance problems in part to the HR and training departments. On average, only 10 percent of respondents reported being very satisfied with the performance of their human resources and training. However, before learning leaders start back-lashing against their superiors, respondents also took some responsibility for their low satisfaction rates.
According to the study, these satisfaction ratings could be attributed to a lack of connection to business drivers, failure to measure the business impact of HR and training efforts, ineffective or non-existent knowledge capture and sharing capabilities, and a lack of leader involvement in people issues.
Only 36 percent of respondents said their companies tailor their HR and training support to each function’s needs and contributions to the organization. Meanwhile, more than 40 percent said they do not evaluate the impact of their HR and training efforts against profitability, and half (50 percent) do not evaluate those efforts against revenues and sales.
In addition, 42 percent of respondents described capturing and sharing knowledge as a challenge or a severe challenge for their companies. The most commonly cited impediments to better knowledge capture and sharing were: a lack of a common business culture across different locations (38 percent), no knowledge-support infrastructure with dedicated people (37 percent) and the fact that knowledge sharing is typically not rewarded in the organization (32 percent).
Only a small percentage of respondents said the heads of customer service, finance, sales and strategic planning at their companies are highly involved in human capital management initiatives.
According to Peter Cheese, global managing partner in Accenture’s Human Performance practice, the findings should be worrisome for executives, especially in today’s competitive global marketplace. The lack of essential skills is a vital issue for senior managers, and companies that fail to develop their workforces risk losing their competitive edge, he said.
According to the study, the executives who gave their companies higher ratings had formal measures that gauge the impact of all HR and training support activities on their top functions. They also tailored HR and training support according to the contribution of specific functions, and their companies took a more strategic approach to human resources and training, including viewing the HR function leader as a strategic business partner to the executive suite.