UPSKILL YOUR STAFF

UPSKILL YOUR STAFF

Now’s the time to grow the people in your business 

Most business owners will acknowledge that well-trained employees are the cornerstone of a successful operation. However, when it comes to the implementation of this training many falter, either because they don’t truly understand the value, or because they don’t have the time to put together an effective training plan. It’s often only when employees start leaving because they are stagnating, that business owners are forced to take notice – especially when they start to add up the costs involved in repeat hiring. 

A REAL INVESTMENT 

Training sessions allow employees to prosper and develop their careers, while giving the organisation a highly skilled workforce, and a competitive advantage in the market. Studies of training reveal that organisations with lower staff turnover spend the most on training and education. Minimising staff turnover benefits the organisation: replacing staff is a costly process; skills are lost and recruiting new personnel takes time and money. 

Training increases the skill-set of the workforce, allowing employees to engage in a wider range of tasks and responsibilities. The benefits of well-trained employees flow through into customer interactions. And satisfied customers make for good business. Training also: 

  • Improves operational flexibility by extending an employee’s range of skills.
  • Improves staff morale.
  • Attracts high-quality employees by offering them learning and development opportunities.
  • Increases levels of competence and enhances skills, resulting in greater job satisfaction and progress within the business.
  • Increases employee commitment by encouraging them to identify with the mission and objectives of the business.
  • Allows owners to promote from within.
  • Stimulates preventive management as opposed to putting out fires.
  • Creates an appropriate climate for growth. 

If there are so many obvious benefits, why do many companies, especially small business, not offer training? The main reason is the cost and there is a fear that once an employee has been trained, he or she is likely to move off to greener pastures. Or little improvement is seen after the training. On the other side, employees often complain that the training is boring and that they can’t apply what they have learnt because of the textbook approach to the training. 

PLAN TO TRAIN 

To develop an effective training plan, you need to have a clear strategy to align any training with the vision and goals of the business, and to ensure that it fits the budget. Too often training is pursued on impulse without proper planning, and as a result few, if any real benefits are seen. 

Choosing the right service provider is critical. There are so many companies to choose from that can be very daunting. Firstly, have a very clear understanding of what you need to achieve prior to your search. The Skills Portal website (www.skillsportal.co.za) is useful when sourcing training providers and you can search by region and type of training. 

Before meeting a potential provider, find out about the competency of the trainers. Ask for company references. When meeting them for the first time, have a list of questions to ask. Also, assess whether or not the culture of the training provider matches yours and importantly if they can deliver on your needs. It’s a good idea to find a course that tests students on completion and makes these results available to you. You may also decide upfront that if the employees fail, they will have to pay for the course in full. Find out if the training provider has a follow-up system to monitor delegate progress over time. Service providers that can prove that growth has resulted from their training have a serious competitive edge. 

Interestingly, studies have shown that if students contribute towards the cost of a course, they are likely to take it a lot more seriously. It is an issue of attitude – if someone is eager to learn and are making a personal sacrifice in order to do so, they will make the most of the opportunity. I would suggest that you put a training policy in place that says if an employee leaves shortly after a course (specify a period) he or she will have to pay back a portion of the training fee. 

WHAT’S ON OFFER? 

There are as many courses on offer as you have employees. And you should start thinking about these interventions during the recruitment process. You can either choose to employ experienced employees with all the necessary qualifications, (with some soft skills training conducted over time), or recruit based on potential. These employees are then trained and developed according to the requirements of the business. As a small business owner, you need to be very clear on who manages the process. And if training is going to be part of your culture, you have to support the interventions. This commitment will have a direct impact on the success of the training. 

Let’s have a closer look at the training courses available to employees. For instance, all new hires should attend an in-house induction session that: 

  • Explains the company culture
  • Clarifies policies such as leave (sick, holiday and special)
  • Discusses salary considerations (how often and how – cash, cheque or direct deposit)
  • Breaks, hours of work and overtime policies
  • Workplace health and safety overview, including first aid facilities and evacuation procedures
  • Business hierarchy, and where the new staff member fits in
  • Position description and general overview of the role
  • Amenities (lunch room, sick room, toilets)
  • Introduction to work colleagues 

If you try to squeeze everything into one day, the new employee might be overwhelmed. Plan to do it over time, so that they settle well. Employees do leave within their probation period because they have just been left to find their own way around. 

Other forms of training would include technical (product and IT) and softer behavioural skills training (teamwork and communication skills). Search www.skillsportal.co.za to access the Seta’s and the various training categories. It is a good idea to use registered service providers, though this is not always a prerequisite. Many very effective service providers do not have the time, manpower, money or patience to register their courses. 

If you haven’t yet made any concrete decisions as to your firm’s training philosophy, set aside some time to plan the way forward. Choose a champion to put the plans into action, and make sure that employees are well aware of what’s on offer. Half the battle will be won when you encourage your staff to take responsibility for their growth, and empower them to plan their own career paths. 

Reference: 

Diana Rankin – Co-owner of HRadvice.co.za (Your Business)