Employers recognise the value in having a skilled workforce, but all too often, they treat training as something of an afterthought. Particularly when the finances are tight, skills development programmes are one of the first things to be sacrificed.
However, failing to spend on employee training is a major false economy. Employers need to realise they are investing in the future of their organisation - with training vital for long-term competitiveness.
Why should you be investing in training?
Employee training programmes offer a number of potential benefits to organisations, including:
- Improved performance and productivity - put simply, the application of new skills can help employees do their jobs more effectively on a day-to-day basis. The better they understand their role, and how to achieve positive outcomes, the more productively they can operate.
- Greater return on investment - training programmes require some up-front investment, but where they are focused on a specific business need, there can be a rapid payback. Teaching workers new skills can empower them in their roles, ensuring the initial investment is recouped through efficiency gains or an increase in revenue.
- Development of future leaders - as an employer, it is your responsibility to prepare for the future by developing potential managers and executives. Supporting employee development, from entry-level right through the organisation, is the beginning of this process.
- Stay competitive - training can deliver short-term gains in terms of equipping staff members with the skills they need to embrace new techniques and procedures. This ensures your organisation keeps pace with the rest of the field - or, if you are the first to act, steals a march on its competitors.
- Improved morale - employees are thinking about career development, and training has an important role to play in getting them to where they want to be. If you neglect employee training, workers may consider there is no real future for them with the organisation, certainly not in the long term. This is likely to impact on their morale, commitment and potentially performance levels.
How to train employees
So as an employer, what do you need to bear in mind when planning a training programme? How can you ensure the sessions deliver great value - both from a financial perspective and in terms of developing employee skills? Here are some suggestions:
- Focus on business needs - in the first instance, focus on business needs when planning training programmes. If your employees have a particular weakness which hampers their performance, this is a good starting point. Tailor the training to address any deficiencies you have identified.
- Concentrate on skills - training programmes should usually be skills-based, within the context of employees' own roles. Trying to change their personality traits is likely to be a waste of time and money - training will be much more valuable if it focuses on skills that can be taught and acquired.
- Target results - employee training should have clear objectives, and it should be possible to measure the success of any session. Seeing how employees apply the skills they have been taught in practice will offer clear insight into whether the training was valuable.
- Consider team-building - training sessions which involve some element of team-building can reinforce positive behaviours, encouraging workers to adopt a more collaborative approach in the course of their day-to-day duties.
- Encourage buy-in - it is important to create context for any training session, making sure employees understand its importance and how it can add value to them as an individual. If workers see training as worthwhile, they are likely to be much more engaged with the session and take something positive away.
- Train the trainers - if you are delivering training in-house, rather than using an external provider, it is important to know they fully understand the skills they are teaching and any information they will provide in the session. Where the trainer lacks the necessary expertise to be a good teacher, the value of the session is likely to be limited.
- Seek feedback - following the session, always invite the participants to offer feedback. This can help improve the content and/or delivery for next time, ensuring the training offers maximum value for employer and employee.
- Reinforce training - check up on employees in the coming weeks and months to see if they have benefitted from the training they have received. If participants are executing the skills they have been taught effectively, this reflects well on the development programme and method of delivery.