Educate to innovate Featured

7:00pm EDT December 26, 2009

In order to remain competitive in today’s business world, you have to be innovative.

For many businesses, survival depends upon whether they will be able to produce the products and provide the services that will be in demand now and in the future.

And one of the keys to becoming a more innovative organization is through the commitment demonstrated by the organization to employee education and training, says Charles Beem, a full-time faculty member at Bucks County Community College and a part-time faculty member at Delaware Valley College.

“Innovation requires education and training. That is what will allow a business to be competitive,” Beem says. “Education and training are directly linked to the ability of a business to be innovative. They are investments that will provide future returns in the form of better products and services and the potential for growth in market share.”

Smart Business spoke with Beem about why business owners should make work force education and training a critical part of their strategic plan.

What are the advantages of education and training in today’s economic climate?

An educated and well-trained work force is necessary for the survival of a business in today’s fiercely competitive environment. When the economic climate is uncertain, a business should be investing more heavily in the education and training of its work force in order to be prepared for future economic growth.

The competitive environment that a business encounters is not only local but more often global, given the continued advances in technology. The creation of a more flexible business organization can be achieved through the organizational commitment to the education and training of its employees.

How does education add flexibility?

The organization that makes investments in the education and training of its employees will be better able to respond more rapidly to the opportunities that may be present in a dynamic environment. The flexibility of the organization may affect its ability to seize the best market opportunities.

What options are available for business owners wanting to train employees in a specific discipline?

There are numerous opportunities available from colleges and universities relative to work force development that can include some very specific specialized training. For example, if the need is for specialized training in supply chain management and logistics, employees could take classes while earning college credits that could be applied toward earning a certificate or degree, or they might consider enrollment in noncredit coursework to learn as a part of work force development.

The work force development options can be more specialized in the scope of the material that is taught to students.

Why should a business owner invest in education or training for employees?

It is an investment that pays future dividends. Business owners should be thinking long term. It is not to imply that present risks and threats should be ignored, but it is also necessary to think about the organization’s future resource needs. How do their employees’ educational and training needs fit with the goals that the organization wishes to achieve?

Ramping up your work force through education and training doesn’t happen overnight but rather must be planned for in advance. Strategic planning should incorporate plans for employee education and training.

The president and CEO of an organization should take responsibility for leading the strategic planning process, which results in the establishment of the goals and objectives being identified that the organization wishes to achieve with its current or available resources.

It is at this critical time that the employee education and training needs should be identified.

There are many people who believe that an organization’s most important resource is the human resource. The recognition that your organization lacks the trained and skilled employees that it needs to achieve its goals and objectives should confirm the need for a plan to encourage employees to take advantage of the education and training opportunities available.

The vital investment in employee training and development now increases the likelihood that the organization will have its employees trained and ready to seize those opportunities in the future as they implement their strategic plan.

Does providing education and training for employees improve or harm retention?

Most employees should be able to recognize a CEO, owner or employer who demonstrates a serious commitment to education and training and the value of one who is willing to invest in the long-term future and the competitiveness of the business.

Employees tend to be more highly motivated when they are presented with these types of opportunities. Providing training and education not only helps the business, it also helps the individual employee with his or her own personal growth and development, so it’s a win-win situation for both the employee and the employer.

Charles W. Beem is a full-time faculty member at Bucks County Community College and a part-time faculty member at Delaware Valley College. Reach him at (215) 968-8237 or