Everyday we’re bombarded with more bad news about the economy – more losses, more layoffs, more fraud, more fear. With all the negativity surrounding us, there is a natural tendency to want to retrench. We do it in our homes by cutting unnecessary expenses and pinching pennies where we can. We may put off getting a new car, scale back the family vacation or buy our kids a cheaper brand of sports shoes. In other words, we make do with less.
Companies are no different. Executives are quick to look for ways to reduce their costs too. However, in their efforts to make do with less, too often they hastily cut employee initiatives, like training and development programs, that may seem superfluous and unnecessary, but in reality, play a vital role in keeping employees engaged and productive. Now, more than ever, business owners should resist the temptation to drastically cut training budgets.
Training Develops Skills and Capabilities and Furthers Understanding
Training and development programs fall into a variety of categories. Skills training can help an employee hone particular skills or deepen professional knowledge so he is better equipped to perform his current job or prepared to take on a new role. Other topics of training include management, customer service, safety, technical or computer competency, and social issues such as ethics, diversity or sexual harassment.
Whether an attorney is seeking Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credits or a machinist is learning to use a new piece of computer-automated equipment, training and development programs can undoubtedly help broaden professional skills and competencies. Equally important, training allows an employee to contribute more significantly to the company by helping him better recognize his organization’s objectives, relate more closely to a colleague’s perspective, or respond more quickly to a customer’s needs. When training deepens an employee’s understanding of the organization and the people he works with inside and outside the company, it expands his decision-making capabilities, and as a result, the employee’s efforts are more focused and relevant, his attitude is more tolerant and positive, and his customer interactions are more perceptive and meaningful.
A Deep Bench Allows for Successful Succession Planning
Now, more than ever, your team needs quality talent to fill its bench. Just as a college basketball team wants all its players conditioned and prepared to perform at their peak for the annual NCAA Tournament each March, your company needs its employees to be trained and capable to compete well through the current market challenges. Training and professional development programs can augment employees’ capabilities and instill a sense of self-confidence so they are better conditioned to perform, and prepared to take on greater responsibility should the need arise.
No one wants to think about the possibility of job cuts, but should your company be forced to reduce staff down the road, cross-training employees now can ensure that your remaining team is primed to perform multiple tasks so your company can sustain its productivity and withstand the downturn. And even if layoffs are not in your company’s future, don’t be so naïve to think that your company could not experience employee turnover right now. While some business owners would like to believe that in a tight job market employees will be satisfied with the status quo, the reality is that there is always a demand for good talent and exceptional people can find work in any economy. If employees are dissatisfied, they will be open to a move, and it will likely be your top performers who are ultimately hired away, leaving less-experienced or less-skilled employees who are ill-equipped to maintain operations at an optimum level. Continuing training programs will help to ensure employees are prepared to step up when or if it becomes necessary. Of course, by providing opportunities for career development and advancement, it is also more probable that your top performers will be enticed to stick around.
Development Opportunities Contribute to Employee Satisfaction, Engagement and Performance
Don’t buy into the age-old myth that if you train your employees, they will be more likely to take their newly-earned skills and go job hunting. The opposite is actually true. Employees who are offered opportunities to develop their skills feel greater job satisfaction and are more committed to their employer, thus they are more likely to stay.
Opportunities to learn and grow professionally also contribute to employees’ feelings of engagement, and current thinking suggests that employee performance is directly linked to engagement. Simply stated, engagement occurs when employees feel enabled and enthusiastic to contribute to their company’s success. In addition to being more committed and more passionate, engaged employees are also more aligned to their company’s objectives, thus their efforts tend to have a more significant impact on their organization’s overall performance.
If employers neglect their employees’ intrinsic desire for professional growth and development, there can be negative repercussions. Some employees may become dissatisfied and choose to pursue a career path that appears more fulfilling. Others will stay, perhaps because of a lack of opportunity or motivation, but they are likely to be disenchanted or disengaged and those feelings may ultimately be reflected in their performance.
When there is more bad news than good, it is natural to want to make do with less. However, less opportunity for employees to build critical skills and grow professionally is not the answer. Investing in effective employee training programs can provide companies both immediate and long-term dividends. And with the current state of the market, wouldn’t we all like to see something that delivers positive returns.