Rethinking Training for SMEs and enterprise: 5 Steps to improve learning outcome and increase return of investment


iqDynamics By Lim Say Ping

In the recent years, with the looming aging population and exponential growth of Singapore’s presence in the global economy, there have been many discussions and talks by the Singapore government and private sectors about the need for training. Be it re-skilling older workers to prolong their careers or acquiring new skills to enhance the employee’s ability to carry out the present job role effectively and efficiently, the government been giving out grants for business and individuals alike to encourage upgrading of skills.  In most organisations, the responsibility of coordinating and facilitating these activities fall upon the HR department.


Aside from a very small number of abuse of the Singapore government grants, there are several issues that calls for companies to think twice when using training to improve business productivity, effectiveness, retention and development of talent in the company.

  • Generally, most SMEs do not implement rigorous employee training programs to achieve the above-mentioned benefit because employers simply cannot afford the lack of manpower caused by employees attending training during work hours. A secondary problem maybe the lack of budget which can be partially solved by taking advantage of many government grants.
  • The outcome of the training can be difficult to measure against the improvement in performance.
  • Employees are often sent for training for basic skills, soft skill, domain knowledge or transferable skills, or a combination of the courses to address company immediate requirements and may not necessarily align with the company strategic goals in terms of developing the employees to be more effective and able to take on more responsibility.
  • The soft skills and transferable skills which are important for certain job roles are seldom tailored to the individual employee and, thus, may reduce the maximum benefits of training.
  • There are gaps in terms of theory learned in the class and application of learned materials in real life in order to optimise the outcome of learning. In some situations, the training does not provide sufficient tailored practical training situations to enhance learning.
  • Supervisors and managers may not have the skills or time to tailor suitable individualised training programs and on-the-job practice to acquire sufficient skills timely.



If training and development program is implemented fully and successfully, the benefits to the organization are immense. An efficient and effective work force will be a competitive advantage for the organisation. In addition, it is generally recognised as a tool to attract and retain talent.


What are the few things that can be done differently to optimise the benefits of training in the face of all these issues? One should look at 3 key elements:


  • Strategy alignment:

Training programs should be designed to align with company strategy and individual employee aspiration to enhance the results of the training.


  • Targeted approach:

 The training programs should be prioritized accordingly to the needs of each individual employee.


  • Closed loop Feedback:

The HR and management team should constantly monitor the progress of the training programs and its impact on the employee’s performance.



There are 5 steps that can help to set up a comprehensive and cost effective training framework and programs for the company:

  1. Strategy

Clearly plan and write down the organisation’s business vision and strategy for the next 3-5 which will be used to produce a blue print of people strategy.


  1. Job roles and competency framework

Set up clear company definition of job roles and job responsibilities with a clear competency framework to enable the management team to identify the competency and skills GAP for each of the employees.


Additionally, implement a company performance appraisal framework and process with the help of appraisal software to automate the process. The company goals and individual performance objectives are set to align with the company strategy. Using a comprehensive and integrated training management software (sometimes known as learning management system), the individual competency gaps can be jointly identified by the employee and the manager or supervisor though the interaction during the appraisal management processes.


  1. Bridging of gaps and training

These competency gaps can then be used to identify training courses required by matching the recommended training given by the training management system and the competency gaps. The training management software and process should allow flexibility to also incorporate ad hoc training courses as well.

Training courses (external or internal or e-learning or blended learning) can be carefully selected to enroll the employee in. At the same time, practical on- the-job assessment rubrics after the training course should also be specified. In each of the course or practical work, the outcome (or expected learning points) should be clearly spelled out.


  1. Feedback

The ideal feedback after training should be done using a 360-feedback loop by both employee and management which for the latter would come in the form of performance appraisals. The basic concept is to have some form of feedback regarding the outcome of the training and practice and feed into the training management system so that analysis can be made to improve the correlation between training, practical and the acquiring of competency. The result of which would result in more effective training.


  1. Automation with flexibility and good tracking & reporting

A training management system (or learning management software) that is tightly integrated with performance appraisal system and HRMS can automate the tasks and make the process of implementing the training programs easier. The training management software should also assist the company in scheduling, budgeting, apply and claim grants from government department such as WSG. (formerly part of WDA Singapore). In summary, it should automate the tasks associated with training in terms of competency framework and identification of gaps for EACH employee and helping the employee to come out with both short and long term tailored training plans. It should also be able to provide alerts, notifications, track attendance claims government grants and feedback. It should also offer good tracking and reporting functions to enable management to make decision on fine tuning training framework and programs. Typically, these software tools (training management system, performance appraisal system  and HRMS) can be on cloud and one can start with Software as a service (SaaS) with very little upfront investment, ie pay as you use.


Startup Stock Photos


To note, these steps do not quite solve the issues faced by SME regarding the lack of resources to “stand-in” while the selected employees are away from their job for training. And to make things more difficult, there are many different schemes offered by Singapore government to help to fund training. The challenge is knowing what and how to take advantage of all these good schemes. These are all real obstacles to overcome in order to use training to improve productivity and competitiveness. In some cases, this may be a means of survival in this tough business climate. We will have to examine to see what solutions various SMEs in Singapore can come up with to solve this issue and use training help to increase revenue, profitability and attract and retain talent. We will discuss more of these in the near future.


 If you’d like to find more about HRiQ’s suite of powerful comprehensive HRMS and Talent Management System, contact us here.

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