Bolstering the Human Side

AMS' Griffiths tells why training, not just technical resources, is vital to enterprise architectures.

Building a top-notch enterprise architecture isnt just about getting networks, servers and other technical resources to mesh. Its also about developing the human resources—the knowledge, experience, skills and perspective—needed to execute a strategy. eWeek Executive Managing Editor/Features Jeff Moad recently spoke with Garry Griffiths, executive vice president and chief human resources officer at American Management Systems Inc., about how the global IT and business consulting provider is enhancing the human side of its enterprise architecture.

eWeek: In the current economic environment, many organizations seem to feel its acceptable to cut back on training, recruiting and management development. Does that make sense to you?

Griffiths: I take the opposite view. I think its during a down market that you need to regard training as an investment, not a cost, difficult though it is. Its during a down market that you need to take the opportunity of a breathing space where you create an employer-of-choice brand both inside and outside so that youre ahead of the curve of economic growth that is inevitable.

You need to do the following things: First, you need to make sure the executive team fully understands that the investment is about providing career development opportunities, moving people around so that they feel they get stretch and personal and professional growth. Second, you need to prioritize training to make sure that there is appropriate training. Through a new performance management system, we are able to find out from the relationship between the line manager and the managed who needs particular training. In order to help the line, I have now taken all training costs central so that the line has no [ability] to say, "I cant afford it."

On [career] development ... we want to develop a succession plan internally. ... [We will] build a top talent pool of 200 people AMS-wide, who will be senior executives in the future, to give genuine hope to the people who are already here.

eWeek: How do you go about evaluating the companys return-on-training investment, and how do you go about helping senior management understand the value of that investment?

Griffiths: First, the executive management of AMS fully understands. ... I dont have to prove it to them. In fact, they are putting pressure on me to say, "Deliver more development and training; make it more e-learning so that we have to take fewer people away from their day-to-day work." So theres no ideological debate.

In real economic terms, I can prove [return-on-training investment] in the following way: First, on the actual skills training, its easy to prove return on investment both in terms of the shorter duration of programs and the applicability with actual work with the client.

Second, we have an emerging leaders program, which is a form of management training. Its a bit harder to specify a quick return on that. But we obviously have the normal evaluation that says, "Was the training worthwhile?" But over time, were also going to test with the line manager to say, "Why did you send so-and-so on the program? Did that person come back? And did that person do better over the next few months because theyd been in that training?"