Talent quest: Why you can’t afford to drop the ball on staff training

Employees are the most important asset in many businesses, so investing in them is crucial. Developing their skills will help your business evolve in line with industry and technology changes; will minimise staff turnover and help retain star performers. However, training costs time and money. Here are five ways training can work for your business.

Training is not about ticking HR boxes. It represents a commitment to developing staff and a business. Even in hard times, savvy businesses continue to allocate resources in this area knowing that productivity is important for growth. So how do they get the most out of staff training?

Career advancement

Businesses that make an articulated commitment to develop staff skills and knowledge always come out on top. Most employees want to develop their careers and will respond positively to managers who proactively help them map out a career development plan and how to achieve it.

Coca-Cola Great Britain takes training and development seriously: “We have continuously invested over the years with the aim of strengthening this important area of business performance, placing emphasis on employee development plans, internal talent management, leadership development for managers and employee performance management.”

Development plans can be agreed to in writing by an employee and manager, and supported by a clearly defined training plan. Businesses should track staff progress and align key performance indicators with business objectives.

Supporting career advancement with an agreed training and management plan also helps to retain star performers, which is crucial for any business.

Leverage new skills

Any new skills and competencies achieved as a result of training need to be immediately incorporated into daily work tasks to reinforce any learnings and ensure it translates into business outcomes. New skills and tasks should also be incorporated into job descriptions, which supports employee development and enhances job satisfaction.

A UK report Engaging for Success, by Nita Clarke and David MacLeod, identifies compelling evidence that productivity and innovation improves when employees feel empowered and supported in their roles. In support of her argument, Clarke also points to research, which shows a 10 per cent increase in investment in good workplace practises, relating to staff engagement, boosts profits by up to £1,500 per employee annually.

Take time to talk

Regular feedback for staff and recognition by managers is HR 101, but it’s often brushed aside as attention turns to more pressing tasks. However, research abounds confirming that staff respond more positively to manager feedback and a pat on the back than a salary increase or bonus.

Post-training feedback is particularly important to praise staff for identifying new opportunities, embarking on new initiatives or introducing new ways of thinking. Feedback is also important for staff dealing with new tasks and any subsequent changes to their roles.

It’s motivating for staff, improves productivity and provides an opportunity for managers to give support where needed.

Promote from within

When recruiting for a role, managers often cast the net outside the business in the hope of finding the perfect candidate. But given the high cost of recruitment – in terms of time and money, and the need to retain junior as well as senior star performers – promoting from within can be a smarter move, if you can support the decision with the right training.

It sends a strong message to the team that the business is committed to its staff, supports career progression with suitable training and development, and provides real opportunities for staff.

“Employee development and promotion from within is a fantastic motivator and demonstrates the commitment of your company to your workforce’s individual career goals and future plans,” says Beatrice Bartlay, founder of employment agency 2B Interface.

Measure the investment

Any investment needs measuring so it’s important to understand the effectiveness of the training and its contribution to the business.

Encourage staff to create their own post-training action plans by nominating three to five key problems in the business, how they can apply the training, a measurable goal and a deadline. Evaluating any outcomes becomes an effective way of measuring the investment. The process might also identify new opportunities or areas of employee interest that can help the business grow.

It’s also important to evaluate the training provider, their course material, how their training objectives could be applied in the workplace and their overall effectiveness to assess whether other staff will benefit in the future.

For many businesses, staff training and development is a no-brainer. A positive working environment where employees can see tangible and personal benefits can help foster loyalty while also growing the business.