May 292014

Would you pay R5,000 for a lollipop? It is rather disturbing how many businesses we come across that do not seem to mind – metaphorically speaking of course. Some businesses have no problem keeping a product or department afloat, a client on the books and honour an expense every single month that does not in return exceed the value invested in it. Doing this does not make business sense. If you are feeling this way about your training, then you are doing it wrong.

Training should make business sense. You should be getting more value out of that investment than the monetary value paid for it. On multiple occasions a client has boasted quite proudly that they spend 6% of their wages and salary budget on training every year, but have no clear answer to offer when we want to know what return they have enjoyed on that investment. If you do not know the answer to this question you are in fact just boasting about throwing money in the water. Your eye should be on this measure for all expenditure in your business whether economic circumstances are challenging or affluent.

So how do you ensure that whatever you spent on training contributes to your bottom line instead of detracting from it?

Consider what training you select

  • The majority of companies that we encounter usually only focus on job performance enhancing training. This is the category where you send the receptionist for customer service training, the driver for advance driving skills, administrative staff for computer software training etc. Very few however also train their staff in personal empowerment and soft skills. Personal empowerment is where health and wellness related topics as well as managing your own finances and recycling falls. This is the category with which you can most clearly show that you care about your people, because it has the least direct benefit for the business (ignoring for the moment the philosophy of holistic people management and that a healthy and happy worker is a more productive worker). Soft skills, is generally the one with the biggest benefit for any business, but usually gets the least amount of attention. Why is it that we put people in positions, only teach them how to do the job, never teach them how to properly communicate with each other and then we are surprised when we pick up conflict issues within teams? We have to teach our people soft skills! We have to teach them how to be tolerant to diversity, to understand that different people react differently to change, how to deal with potentially volatile situations, how to communicate with difficult people, how to manage their emotions, even teach them about positive self-talk. The most successful businesses incorporates a combination from all three these categories.
  • Make sure that whatever training you choose, that it is necessary and useful for the people being trained. Do not just randomly select people to meet the quota or to achieve an objective.

Optimize your spending

  • Although this cannot always be avoided, try to limit peripheral spending as far as is possible. Your training budget should as far as possible be spent on training and not traveling, parking, accommodation and refreshments.
  • Shop around and do comparisons, not only to find the best deal, but also to gain the benefit of utilizing special deals.

Select effective training programs

  • Whether you choose on-site, off-site or online training – each of them have their own advantages and disadvantages. Take the individual into account and choose the option that will be of most benefit to them.
  • Be wary of information overload (too much information shared in too short a time span). This is generally not a very effective means of training. Knowledge transfer should happen and this often works best with short bursts of information shared, followed by the opportunity to practically apply the knowledge gained. If you send someone on training for a full day or multiple days, they may become distracted by worrying about work piling up at the office in their absence. Make sure that as a business you support individuals that are away on training. Have the necessary systems and processes in place to cope in their absence without having to bother them while they are away so that they can focus and get the most out of the training they are attending.
  • Consider the practicalities. It may not be best to send an individual in the Finance department for a 3 day training course immediately after month end when it is their busiest time of the month. Also take into consideration any special needs your employees may have with regards to language proficiency and literacy.

Create and encourage opportunities for application

  • The worst thing that you can do is to have sent someone for training and then not give them the opportunity to utilize their newly gained knowledge and skills in your business. The damage that this can do is far worse than failing to have trained your team at all. They will become despondent, frustrated and they will eventually leave for an environment that will allow them to utilize their new skills and allow them to try new things and grow.

There are many business benefits (both direct and indirect) of training when you do it right.

  • Personal empowerment skills may result in reduced absenteeism because people better know how to take care of their own health. You may even find that quality improves, as mistakes reduce, because people are better able to focus on their work when they are not plagued by worries about their personal finances.
  • Soft skills training can result in more improvement ideas being generated and implemented. Within most teams you will find a good spread between people who are more extrovert, even to the extent of exhibiting a very dominant personality and then on the other end of the scale, people who may appear to be more introverted, but in fact just lacks practice in being assertive and the belief that they deserve to be heard in the first place (call it self-confidence if you wish). In this team, you will generally find that the dominant personality always has a lot to say and can be very critical towards others and this reinforcing cycle will continue to serve that individual well, as it reinforces the individual at the other end of the scale to believe that they were right when they thought they will not be heard. Now understand that both of them are very likely doing it unconsciously and unintentionally and have probably never even realised that there is another way. If we start off with trying to address this interaction within the team, the dominant personality will get defensive and at the opposite end of the scale, the other extremity will just cower away even more, feeling that they have been put on the spot. This can be very damaging. If you however teach the dominant person to manage their emotions so that they do not become defensive and you can increase the other extremity’s self-worth; if you teach each individual tolerance, acceptance and how to approach any situation with a positive and grateful attitude, then the foundation is there for the work around interactions to start, without it being escalated into a volcanic eruption and a gigantic unnecessary emotion driven mess that takes up management time to address – time that could have and should have been spent on more value adding tasks.
  • Job performance enhancing training can result in more productive workers and the implementation of cost reduction projects.

Training is a critical element in establishing an innovative and learning culture. When done right it positively contributes to employee empowerment, morale, employee engagement and job satisfaction. These in turn supports employees to bring you their best, to realize their full potential, to continuously improve and to effectively contribute to a sustainable and profitable business. Successful businesses understand this and know that this fact remains true irrespective of whether economic circumstances are challenging or affluent. They understand that almost any process in business is in some way or another dependant on the individual performing that task or responsible for that process. These businesses utilize effective training programs to ensure that they get a higher return on investment from every employee, than the monetary value of the salary or wage amount paid to that employee. Can you afford not to?

Click the link below to view the complete A2C Newsflash Volume 2 Issue 23 – Training for profit

A2C Newsflash Vol 2 Iss 23 – Training for profit

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