Strategic Training and Development: Implementing a comprehensive skills plan using your WSP & ATR

May 2015

Workplace Skills Plans and Annual Training Reports are often seen as simply compliance driven reports, something which many organisations treat with a begrudged attitude. Alana Perumal, Progression’s Skills Development Facilitator, looks at how these reports can actually be used to strategically plan training and development and add real value to a business.

The Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) state that the Workplace Skills Plan (WSP) is a strategic document which articulates how the employer is going to address the training and development needs in the workplace. They further emphasise that the process should be an all-inclusive one. The Annual Training Report (ATR) is to be submitted concurrently with the WSP and reflects on the implementation of training initiatives undertaken in the current year, based on provision in the previous years’ WSP.

While I have seen many organisations treat these reports as simply a means to compliance, the truth is that they can be beneficial to the long term of a business if utilised properly to develop a comprehensive skills plan.

The Benefits of a Comprehensive Skills Plan

A comprehensive skills plan, when aligned to an organisation’s long term strategy, offers the key to implementing sustainable skills development and overcoming implementation challenges. Using a comprehensive skills plan, companies can develop their skills and talents in order to achieve their strategic goals.

Utilising the WSP and ATR as tools for developing and implementing a comprehensive skills plans which speaks to the overall organisational strategy encourages a holistic and sustainable approach to skills development. Instead of simply compliance documents, your WSP and ATR are suddenly able to add real value to the workplace.

The Challenges

With the benefits of a comprehensive skills plans so obvious, why then do so many organisations still struggle to bring their well-thought-out plans to the training floor and implement necessary skills development initiatives?

In my experience, not enough organisations see the value in linking their WSP and ATR to their company strategy and skills plan. This is further antagonised by lack of buy-in from line managers and employees, especially when companies link their training to B-BBEE rather than addressing employment equality. Employees often perceive the company to be chasing points rather than valuing the growth of individuals.

There are also the logistical challenges of implementing training in the workplace, that is training involves time away from the office and costs money. Added to this is the level of administration technicality when implementing certain types of training interventions, for instance learnerships or apprenticeships, which can cause employers to sometimes be reluctant about engaging in training implementation.  

Creating and Implementing a Comprehensive Skills Plan

In order to overcome these challenges, an effectively strategised skills plan is essential. Here are some of the most important elements which need to be considered when creating a skills plan and linking it to your company strategy.

Everything starts with an audit

Understanding where the gaps lie is an important first step to any planning process. A skills audit is a useful tool in identifying these gaps, and is essentially a process for measuring and recording the skills of an individual or group.  The Financing and Accounting Services SETA (FASSET) recognises that the main purpose for conducting a skills audit is to identify the skills and knowledge that the organisation currently has as well as those that it requires.

Once this is in place, getting to ‘grips’ with the organisational context needs to happen. The purpose of this is to ensure that the skills plan speaks to the overall business strategy/ core purpose of the business as well as the organisational culture. The company’s SWOT analysis as well as long and medium-term goals must be considered.

Understanding employees attitudes to training

A company survey is a useful tool for understanding both manager and employee needs as well as underpin the overall attitude towards training. Implementing training within a team that understands and believes in the value of training will be far easier than with a team who perceives training as a ‘waste of time’.

Organisations that identify this type of adverse attitude to training may want to consider a form of training initiation or campaign roll-out which reminds individuals of their contribution to the organisation and why the organisation is prioritising skills development.

With the Skills Audit and organisational context in place companies can now begin to formulate their comprehensive skills plan.

Building Individual Growth Strategies

In an ideal world, businesses should be devising individual growth strategies for employees, taking time to discuss and explore each individual staff member’s needs or aspirations.

A report in the Harvard Business Review titled ‘Why top young managers are in a non-stop job hunt’ unpacked a study conducted in 2012 which highlighted that young talent needs and wants training and development from the companies they work for, and that they perceive such activities as an indication that their employers value their contribution.

With this in mind, organisations can be better geared to put together a comprehensive skills plan for their workforce that incorporates formal and informal learning. In order to offer the most effective strategy, the WSP should therefore contain information relating to on-the-job coaching and mentoring, short skills programmes as well as long-term formal qualifications.

Measuring Success

The Annual Training Report (ATR), which is submitted concurrently with the WSP, reflects on training and skills initiative implemented in the previous year. By utilising this report, the value added through training and the progress made in addressing the skills gaps can be recorded. Any hindrances should then be included in the WSP for the upcoming year. Measuring success of the training is a critical step in ensuring that the training outlined in the WSP is in fact adding value to the workplace.

In Conclusion

Organisations that treat their Training and Development as a strategic business role rather than an ad-hoc activity of the Human Resources Department will be better geared to planning, coordinating and regulating their workforce growth. Both the WSP and ATR can be used to create a comprehensive skills plan that is aligned with your organisation’s strategic objectives in order to create an environment of real growth and development.


Progression offers its clients specialised skills development consultation which empowers employers to better manage their implementation strategies in order to maximise on benefits to company’s objectives whilst ensuring compliance. For more information on our products and services please call 0860 754557 or email candice@progression.co.za

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