Your employees are the most valuable part of your business, literally as well as figuratively.
But finding the best people to work for your organisation is only part of the equation. It’s just as important that you support their training and development throughout their time with you.
Why do you need staff training and development?
Recruiting the right people is a significant cost in the first place, so why wouldn’t you equip them with all the skills necessary to keep them at the top of their game?
If you simply leave your employees languishing without giving them the chance to improve their skills and knowledge, there is a chance they will end up treating their role as ‘just a job’ – a means to an end to get them by until they find something better. In the meantime, you’ll risk creating the conditions for a disengaged and unenthusiastic workforce, and that will have an impact on your productivity and bottom line.
This is why the best HR teams are well versed not just in the recruitment process, but also in the ongoing development of employees once they are on board.
You’ll be at a disadvantage if your competitors take learning and development seriously while you don’t. On the other hand, having the right programmes in place will benefit your individual employees and your overall business.
What’s the difference between training and development?
The two terms are often used interchangeably, and colloquially they can mean pretty much the same thing. But there are some key differences.
Training people helps them achieve a particular skill that can be used for an immediate challenge. For example, if you get a new piece of machinery or software, you need to train your employees how to use it. The objectives of this training are clear and obvious – teaching them how to operate a machine or program – and it’s often a one-off process. Once they’ve learnt it, they’ve learnt it.
Development is a longer-term process and involves all-round self-improvement, as opposed to learning how to complete a particular task. It can involve a broad subject such as developing managerial skills, for instance, and often gives the employee the flexibility to lead the process and develop their character traits at their own speed.
Another way of looking at it is that training usually involves the business requiring the employee to learn something new for a particular reason, whereas development involves handing much of the initiative to the individual.
What are the benefits of staff training and development?
Some of the benefits that come from your employees’ ongoing learning are quantifiable, while others are less tangible.
These benefits can include:
- new skills
- a greater all-round understanding of your operations
- increased staff motivation
- more loyalty to the business
- preventing staleness among your workforce
- higher employee engagement
- greater efficiency
- a better staff retention rate
- increased productivity
- a positive reputation for looking after your employees
- the emergence of future managers
Your employees will feel they are at the cutting edge of their profession, continually picking up new skills and learning how to do things better, and they will feel more engaged, confident and committed to the business.
It can lead to lower absenteeism and a greater likelihood of your employees going the extra mile for you. If they feel they are growing on a personal level, it gives them a sense of achievement and pride.
The benefits are felt all-round. They are happier and you get the best out of them.
What training and development should you focus on?
It’s usually not a simple case of ‘one size fits all’. A diverse workforce will benefit from diversified support.
Rather than signing everyone up to the same courses en masse, you should look for skills that the business is short of or your individual employees are lacking.
Try to identify which areas of your operations need extra support. If there’s a particular function that can only be carried out by just one employee, for instance, it could be worth training a few more people in that, so you’re not left with a skills gap should that person leave the business.
But also use the opportunity afforded by regular appraisals to find out what learning and development your employees feel they could benefit from. Some employees might be shy in coming forward, but talking to them frequently might allow you to tease out information that can help you draw up a programme to help them develop.
How to measure training and development
If you are going to make the case within your business that there should be a strong focus on this sort of support, you need to be able to show it has positive results.
Some of this will come from feedback from your employees, via appraisals or team meetings.
But you can also measure things such as staff retention rates, the rate of production or productivity levels, the number of internal promotions versus the need for external recruitment, and so on.
Training and development is an ongoing process. It’s unlikely that you’ll see a sudden spike in any of these metrics immediately after embracing this philosophy, but over time the benefits should become more measurable and easier to spot.
It’s also important not to let training or development happen in a bubble. If someone spends a day learning something new but then returns to the office or the factory floor and reverts to what they were doing before, the new skill can be quickly forgotten.
Consider offering refresher courses, business projects that make use of these skills, and asking your employees for feedback on how they have utilized what they have learned. If it turns out the skills learned are rarely applied, you can tweak your training programme accordingly.
Cutting your costs
Although there is a cost to providing learning and development – both in terms of funding the programmes and in terms of time spent away from the ‘day job’ – it should boost your bottom line in the long run.
As well as having a better-equipped workforce, it can significantly cut your future recruitment costs.
For starters, you’ll have a more highly skilled pool of talent at your disposal, which can reduce the need to look outside the organisation should you lose a key member of staff, which will happen from time to time. This can result in a major reduction in both expense and hassle.
But with a more highly motivated and happier workforce less likely to want to look elsewhere for self-improvement in the first place, lower staff turnover means less time and money spent trying to find replacements.
Developing your existing talent is much more efficient than constantly having to buy it in. It can help with business continuity, too.
Make training part of the company culture
Training sessions or development days should not be thought of as an add-on to people’s ‘real work’, or as a day off for a bit of fun. Try to build the concept of ongoing development into your company culture, and promote it as being as important as any other tasks your employees carry out.
Budget for sufficient time. It’s no good expecting employees to spend a couple of days on a training course only to find out at the last moment that their manager can’t spare them. Learning and development should be an integral part of the job, and the time required to complete it should be factored in by every forward-thinking manager.
To find out more about how Advanced can help support HR departments with staff training and development, explore the features and benefits of our Cloud HR software.