Defining and Measuring Training Activity in New Zealand Workplaces

Defining and Measuring Training Activity in New Ze…
01 Jul 2012

While there is a large body of evidence that highlights the association between skills and workplace productivity, robust information about employer-provided training and skill development is lacking in New Zealand and of variable quality in comparable jurisdictions.

Training and skill development are critical determinants of wage growth and ultimately contribute to increased firm productivity and economic growth. Researchers and policy-makers need to better understand the linkages, gaps and outcomes of training on skills and ultimately, productivity and economic growth. Having better information on training provided by employers is particularly important because the majority of the training and development undertaken by working adults is provided by employers (OECD 1999). Improved measurement of training activity in New Zealand workplaces is the fundamental starting point for developing more effective, targeted policies to help lift the skills and productivity of the workforce.

This report is the initial step in a wider programme of work by the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment attempting to address this lack of robust information. The programme aims to capture more comprehensive and reliable data on the nature and incidence of training and skills development occurring in New Zealand workplaces. Our report presents a framework to guide decisions on research into training and skill development. The framework suggests the initial focus should be on understanding what training is being provided within workplaces. Research to understand the drivers of training needs to be built on this foundation, followed by research to gain an understanding of training outcomes. We recommend that this framework be further developed and tested with key policy-makers and employer and industry associations.


Our advice is based on two key inputs:

  •  A review of key literature (in New Zealand and comparable jurisdictions).
  •  In-depth interviews with:

                – eight employers, pretesting potential research questions and research methods with employers of different size and from diverse sectors

                – four stakeholder organisations, to provide context and background to the overall project.

Key Results

There is a clear need for on-going Ministry-led research into training and skill development within New Zealand workplaces to address continuity and consistency issues and inform quality policy development. Training research needs to be specifically adapted to the New Zealand context and flexible enough to obtain quality information from numerous, diverse small businesses. Better quality information on workplace training will inform on-going policy development, ultimately benefiting both employers and employees by supporting skill development to increase business performance, productivity and profitability.

The design of future research needs to be guided by the type and depth of information required:

  •  Large-scale quantitative surveys (such as BOS) are ideally suited for capturing what training employers typically provide (relating to their core business and for their most visible staff).
  •  Quantitative surveys adapted to particular sectors or with additional questions could be developed to collect information on a range of topics, including internal training, specific policy questions, quantification/costs of training and outcomes of training.
  •  Qualitative research is recommended for added depth in areas that are complex/difficult to capture, including internal training, costing of training, training outcomes and employee perspectives. Qualitative research is particularly suited to the New Zealand context where the majority of businesses are SMEs providing predominantly internal training.

We recommend that the Ministry’s further exploratory research involve extensive, thorough cognitive testing of questions, definitions and classifications. Furthermore, it should test a range of methods (both quantitative and qualitative) to collect different types and depths of information.

Page last modified: 15 Mar 2018