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Published in March VBOT SoundingBoard

What the heck is a curriculum audit?

At a recent VBOT event, Dr. Paul Cappon of the CCL stated that an investment in HRD should bring a three times greater return than any capital investment a company can make.  Pretty impressive statement, but how does the average company (especially small companies) ensure this kind of activity?

It is interesting that we do not apply aspects of one business area (financial audit) into others.  Businesses audit capital investments to ensure they are receiving the return they expect.  Why do we not do the same with intellectual, human and social capital? The problem is many of these investments are intangibles that are hard to quantify; and are a result of what is called non-formal or informal learning. Unfortunately, most HRD curricula only concentrate on formal learning.

An education curriculum audit is not just about assessing whether training outcomes fit an organizations needs.  It is a complete analysis to see if appropriate teaching methods and theories are congruent with corporate culture and executive management policies.  In other words, is every aspect of your training curriculum (whether internally generated or externally contracted) contributing to the development of intellectual, human or social capital?

Lets look at a few examples. Most people are very familiar with the idea of intellectual capital.  This is the more tangible of the three as the end result is a patent, copyright or trademark. However, anyone who develops IC, realizes that these tangibles start off as very intangible ideas. Many companies recruit by stating they offer a creative environment.  How is that measured or quantified?

Human Capital has become a popular buzzword, especially among economists who keep trying to create a math formula that can be added to a balance sheet.  Think of HC as the ‘brand value’ of a person.  You have a feeling that your current business development manager could be the next Steve Jobs. Are the right non-formal and informal learning opportunities to make that happen in place?

Social Capital is the ‘payoff’ of having great human capital in the same environment. At this point many HR people will say they utilize all kinds of group activities during their training. Though this is very true, are these group activities structured in such a way that group learning (what we can also call product/service development) will continue outside of the formal learning or office structure?

Current research is leading to the development of new tools that work with HRD staff to evaluate current education programs or assist with the development of new programs. I firmly believe it is about time Canadian companies, led by Vancouver, become world leaders in true innovative ‘outside-the-box’ human resource development.


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audit process as well as discuss your unique situation