Businesses looking to slice and dice the budget walk a fine line between meeting short-term goals and driving the organization into long-term pain. When evaluating departments, people and programs for downsizing or outsourcing, there are difficult questions to consider.
Employee training and development is one area that deserves an extra-careful review.
“Variations in cash flow sometimes make it difficult to stay focused on the need for continuous training,” says Thomas Stewart, the vice president of workforce solutions for Tampa Bay WorkForce Alliance. “But you can see a direct correlation to an investment in training and a business’s health and ability to stay solvent.”
Smart Business spoke to Stewart about why an investment in ongoing training, even in a tough economy, will foster employee loyalty, increase capacity and help attract and retain top talent.
How can businesses successfully use training as a talent management tool?
Businesses are in constant change; they have to be to survive. The skills that are necessary to keep up with the changes in that business are ongoing. Businesses that train employees are also in a better position to manage employee performance. Based on the training that they’ve provided, businesses can specifically lay out performance expectations and build a culture of excellence. You can align training with a pay-per-performance type of culture and manage talent by demonstrating to employees that they are a valuable part of the organization and that you wish to continue to invest in them. If an employee feels like their interests are being served, as well, then the loyalty to the organization tends to be higher.
What are the main benefits of implementing ongoing training?
Ongoing training sets a culture for expectations. Having a culture of ongoing training is critical in setting the expectations. It gives employees the knowledge base to be able to take care of customers, fix computers, work with software applications a whole host of things. The training culture can really begin when the employee is coming on board, when that initial orientation can set the stage for an expectation of continuous training. Sometimes ongoing training can be an internal function, as well a sharing of information between departments and employee to employee, like a cross-pollination of knowledge within the organization. Most companies realize that if an employee is not sharing something they know, it becomes a liability. But part of that depends on the individual’s perspective, as well. If an individual feels threatened that they’ll lose their job if they share their information or if somebody else knows what they know, that can be a discouragement to share information. But if they feel recognized and valued because of their willingness to share information with others in the organization, then they’re more inclined to do so.
As businesses scale back to meet the current economic situation, how can they maintain a focus on training?
That’s perhaps the most difficult question to answer, because in the midst of the storm, as you’re trying to control costs, training tends to be one of the first areas to be cut. One of the elements in the balanced scorecard is learning and growth, but often, businesses will cut out that learning and growth piece in order to meet their financials. That may work for the short term and may keep the financials on track, but over the long term, it may impact employee retention as they start looking for opportunities in other areas. Ultimately, you become less competitive in the marketplace because employees do not have the skills necessary to remain effective or efficient.
What types of resources are available to Tampa Bay businesses or HR managers?
There are various work force organizations that can work directly with your business to determine your training needs, and then find areas where they can help. Some programs may pay for a portion of the training costs for workers to help them gain the skills to make them more competitive and increase their value to the organization. Consultants can also look at what’s available in the market as far as training resources and offer advice about what’s available in terms of training capabilities, and they can also serve as HR resources to help small businesses with their recruitment and training needs.
In this economic climate, looking for more cost-effective delivery tools for training requirements certainly helps you become more competitive. Some on-the-job training programs will offset the cost of training and help businesses develop their employees.
How does ongoing training help companies build a work force that reaches high levels of productivity?
As a business grows, it’s essential for employees to grow and adapt their skills. Continuous training is essential to be able to keep employees not only competent in what they’re doing today but also competent in what they will be doing in the future. The culture of training becomes a critical element to be able to retain the most competent and loyal employees.
Thomas Stewart is the vice president of workforce solutions for Tampa Bay WorkForce Alliance. Reach him at (813) 930-7559 or Stewartt@workforcetampa.com. Tampa Bay WorkForce Alliance’s Competitive Edge Award (CEA) training program is available to companies in the Tampa Bay area. The CEA offers one-on-one training for your existing work force, and it enhances skills that make the company competitive in the marketplace. For more information, visit www.workforcetampa.com or call (813) 930-7570.