Staff training - as the jobs market firms up, how can you stop your talent from walking?

Written by
Changeboard Team

11 Jan 2010

11 Jan 2010 • by Changeboard Team

Importance of training and learning & development

Unemployment has a habit of lagging behind economic calamity and so it was with surprise that the media was able to report a slowdown in the unemployment figures last month despite the UK remaining the last among its economic competitors to still be mired in recession.

While this may be very good news for workers, the conflicting indicators of negative economic growth and better-than-expected jobs figures may give rise to concern among employers, whose staff, having weathered nearly two years of belt-tightening and threatened redundancy, are now peeking out of their burrows into the spring sunshine to see whats on offer.

Well, it may not quite be spring, but as the recession starts to loosen its grip, employees will begin to reassess their options, especially those who have spent the year doing two peoples jobs for the same salary, watched their colleagues being let go, or even endured wage cuts. Any organisation that has spent time and energy on looking after its employees may now find their investment starts to pay out, as staff loyalty that very elusive and hard-to-find relationship that binds the worker to his colleagues and bosses begins to show its true worth.

Nurturing the bottom line - skills & training

In an economic downturn, with firms looking to cut spending anywhere they can, the axe often falls on staff training. When times are tough, it looks like a simple way of reducing costs, but its a flawed economy. Research conducted in 2007 estimated that firms which dont train their staff are more than twice as likely to fail as those which do.

When you consider what a large proportion of a firms assets is its staff, paying careful attention to their skills and enhancing them is ultimately nurturing the bottom line. It is also creating a bond of trust and commitment that goes two ways and is a long term strategy.

Those firms that have continued to invest in staff skills over the last few years will find that they are in the strongest position as the recovery begins. It is valued and committed staff that have helped them through an economic downturn and it is their ability to add value that can keep a firm competitive. Looking back to the last recession, it was the businesses that did invest in their staff that saw the most dynamic recovery.

By contrast, those employers who have demonstrated little or no commitment to their staff may now face the consequences as those people seek out the wider opportunities.

Building staff loyalty through training

It is a remarkably obvious equation; if no-one appears to be looking after staffs interests, they in turn feel no obligation to be loyal to their employer. Conversely, well trained, valued and motivated staff can help their firms to do more with less; confident and dynamic staff not only help their firms through a downturn but will also drive future growth. As a consequence, they are an asset not to be lost. 

One of the best ways to foster loyalty is to regard each member of staff as a valuable asset in themselves, to be nurtured and encouraged. Staff are able to give much more than theyre usually permitted if they are just encouraged to do so.

Training is often considered a luxury in that its not always possible to directly measure its impact on the bottom line in the same way as, for example, increasing ad spend. But in todays commercial world, the uncertainty that seems to be a permanent part of todays business world only underscores that ongoing training is a necessity if firms are to respond and adapt to that change. Today, for almost every company that orientates itself around the future, a comprehensive learning strategy is fundamental to their smooth operation.

Talent management strategy & informal learning

A proper talent development strategy looks at all the ways in which staff talent can be unlocked and developed. A good head of learning only focuses a little time on traditional learning programmes and instead spends time developing informal learning structures. In a world where there are brilliant learning resources available online, there is no excuse for denying access to everyone.

But even the most committed organisations may feel they are not able to afford the cost in time and fees of releasing key staff for training. But that was the old days, when most training happened off the premises and was only for key workers whose training could demonstrably affect the bottom line. But around five years ago, the corporate training market began to change. A report from the US indicated that up to 70% of workplace learning was happening on an informal basis employees were searching the web, looking at journals or consulting their colleagues for insights and knowledge. The Challenge for training providers was that they had always focused on the 30% that was formal learning. Now, not only is the informal, on-demand learning more relevant, it is more popular and more effective. And it is also more affordable.

Speeding ROI - online learning

The efficiency, flexibility, popularity and affordability of online learning means employers will get a faster ROI from their employees because theyre growing with the company. This will happen even faster if employers ensure the learning opportunities reflect their business needs and that they focus not on the processes but on the Results and likely impact.

E-learning today relies on immediacy, relevance and trusted content from an experienced provider. Firms that wish to future proof their businesses should take note and invest in their staff.