NZIM : Researching the Future – Forward focus

Wellington-based Research New Zealand recently completed major survey of NZIM members and potential members to establish opinions about future business trends and canvass range of membership and training issues that NZIM must take into account when planning its future.
The survey was in part based on qualitative research already conducted for NZIM by the research arm of advertising agency Clemenger BBDO which canvassed the issues to test in this later survey.
The Research New Zealand survey was sent to all NZIM members, corporate and individual, and to sample of non-member organisations that potentially could become members of NZIM. As NZIM National chief executive David Chapman said in these pages last month, as membership organisation NZIM needs to pay attention to the value proposition it offers to members.
The findings are encouraging. By and large, both corporate and individual members believe their NZIM membership is valuable, and that value lies in the access they and their staff have to education and training. Membership also provides useful flow of information about education and training opportunities, articles in magazines and newsletters. The networking opportunities offered through NZIM courses and seminars are particularly important to individual members. The NZIM profile in general closely fits the profile of the ideal education and training provider.
NZIM’s website is also useful source of information. However, members need to be more actively encouraged to access the website for wider range of information. Currently members use it mainly to source information about courses. Expanding the website to deliver wider range of membership service is important. Members felt, for example, that the website could offer management knowledge and performance self-assessment and information or tools to assist in identifying gaps in their knowledge along with appropriate courses and seminars to help fill these gaps.
A website is not, in itself, sufficient. Members and potential members must use it to satisfy their information needs. Almost half the survey respondents had no opinion about whether the NZIM website met their needs. The website must, therefore, be specifically promoted at every opportunity so that members habitually check it. NZIM could, for example, use email communication to advertise new information and website changes.
The research confirmed that NZIM has great reputation for doing what it does. It is generally regarded as professionally presenting higher quality and more relevant content than other education and training providers. However, NZIM must develop value proposition that cannot easily be imitated by its competitors.
NZIM presenters are generally highly regarded and perhaps the Institute should more actively promote not only its seminars and courses, but also its presenters. NZIM should be regarded as an integral part of an organisation’s management support system, position other providers would find difficult to achieve. Organisations are exposed to many providers, and the majority of survey participants said they also use others.
NZIM qualifications provide special class of education and training. high proportion of those with an NZIM qualification felt it provided good value and increased their confidence in their enhanced know-ledge and management skills. They felt that the qualification also gave their employer good value for money. These qualifications are not, however, seen as guarantee of promotion which is based more on performance than qualifications.
An increasing number of education and training providers offer variety of electronic course options. The internet, broadband and more powerful personal computers will all play major role in education and training in the future.
It is not, however, easy to mimic the classroom and teacher on the internet, and this is still the generally preferred method of learning. This is probably more question of course design that meets the needs of those who want to attend the courses. Combinations of individual e-learning and seminars that require the presence of the course participants, will enable NZIM to take lead in this type of education and training.
Cooperation with sister organisations on wider basis should be considered because the internet is international in scope, and NZIM members will not be restricted to courses provided by NZIM. In essence NZIM will be cooperating with or competing with the major English-speaking countries.
Managers to whom staff members report make decisions about education and training, according to the survey. There are, therefore, many decision-makers in larger organisations. NZIM must identify these individuals and communicate with them regularly to ensure it remains in the choice-set when decisions are made about which courses are the most relevant. Employees are also more proactive in seeking learning options and can influence decisions. This emphasises the need for NZIM to have wide range of contacts in member organisations.
The survey reveals general agreement that management and executive re-training and upskilling will become more important part of future workplace relationships. And employers will be expected to pay. External providers will play more important role in delivering personal development and organisations that can demonstrate commitment to education and training will be more attractive to employees. It was also accepted that managers and executives will need more education at the beginning of their careers and ongoing education and training will, in future, be more about people skills and less about functional skills.
Other trends identified by the survey and which respondents generally agreed would become more common in future included providing better work-life balance to retain key employees and offering more flexible working arrangements, such as working from home part of the week. Outsourcing of work requiring specialist skills would also become more important in the future.
Research is not crystal ball. Rather, it helps planners understand the environment in which people make decisions about the future and allows those decisions to be tested against facts rather than assumptions. NZIM has embarked on programme to systematically analyse and implement the findings of its surveys, and Research New Zealand will assist in this process by providing additional analysis and information as the need arises.

Ken Fink-Jensen, FNZIM, is director of Research New Zealand, Wellington-based market research company.

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