The objective of the annual HKMA Awards for Excellence in Training is to recognise human resource professionals and to improve the quality of training and development programmes. 'The quality of the finalists is always impressive,' said John Allison, chairman of the training awards organising committee. 'The whole body of training and development expertise in Hong Kong has continued to improve year after year.' The judging process is rigorous. All the participants went through a competitive process, including written submissions, short-listed interviews, question-and-answer sessions, and a seminar of final presentations held on April 24. Mr Allison said contestants submitted training programmes aimed at various levels in a corporation, such as new recruits and managers. Participating companies were from many sectors, including entertainment, hospitality, transport and banking. At the April 24 seminar, which is open to human resource professionals, the six finalists for the campaign awards each conducted a 20-minute presentation and underwent a 10-minute question-and-answer session in front of a panel of judges who made the final decision on the winners. Likening entering the awards to athletes training for a race, Mr Allison believed that the process provided an opportunity for participating companies to review their training programmes, and the process helped human resource development professionals further improve their skills. It was a valuable learning experience for the six finalists to present their programmes to the panel of judges who were from the top-management level of local corporations. 'The finalists have a great opportunity to put themselves to the test and present what they have developed as a company to their profession and the community,' Mr Allison said. The criteria for evaluating the effectiveness of a training programme included how well the students responded to the course, whether they had a high pass grade, and how high they rated the instructors. 'For a programme developed to equip employees with a particular skill, we will see if they have acquired the skill once the training is completed. It is also about what takes place afterwards and whether the programme is delivering the results. We look for a tie-in from the programme that has helped create positive business results. We also consider whether there is a cost-effective solution,' Mr Allison said. Companies have aligned their training and development programmes to reflect the changes brought about when Hong Kong turned into a service-oriented, knowledge-based economy. 'Training now takes on a lot of soft-skills situations. Many programmes focus on ways to deal with customers or service issues,' Mr Allison said. The programmes were designed for companies to deal with the changing marketplace, to change the behaviour of staff, or to redirect the group in some fashion, he said. The development of innovative training programmes continued to flourish despite the economic downturn. 'All companies are looking for opportunities to develop new businesses, even if it is more challenging. They continue to develop the skills of their employees to ensure their products and services are well received in the market. In the past when business was not growing, the training would stop. But in today's environment, training continues, reflecting more interventionist human resources development,' Mr Allison said.