Training Staff: Why and How to Invest in Your Employees

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The CFO says to the CEO, ‘what happens if we train our staff and they leave?’ only for the CEO to respond: ‘what happens if we don’t, and they stay?’

This timeless boardroom yarn and its repetition over the years may make you roll your eyes. But training your staff is nothing to shrug at. According to research by Hays, 86% of workers consider training and professional development to be an investment in the future of their career with their current employer. In other words, investing in your staff is an investment in the future of your business.

If you are looking to expand your learning and development program, or you’re one of the businesses referred to by 41% of workers who say they receive no training at all from their employers, read on for why and how to invest in staff training.

The Importance of Training

People are busier than ever, but not necessarily focused. Your staff may be working really hard but complacency in the process and a lack of perspective may mean their output doesn't correspond to their effort. In this case, training provides time away from everyday tasks to reflect and learn new ways of thinking and working. It's an opportunity to regain perspective, consider the best use of energy, and refocus.

Training also empowers your employees to go beyond the requirements of their role and explore what else they could do, because they have the support and encouragement to be their best. An empowered, more positive and focused workforce is felt throughout the service delivery and customer experience, which ultimately is a reflection on your business.

Benefits to your Business

On the surface, it’s easy to see the benefits of training and development to an employee. But consider what these benefits can mean for your business:

Benefits of training to staff Benefits of training to business
Upskilling or re-skilling Fill skills gaps in your staff
Learning new processes or concepts Increase productivity and efficiencies in your business
Staying up-to-date with moving technologies, policies and practices You remain compliant and operate at – or even set – industry standards
Update to their CV You have highly skilled and potentially sought-after people already working for you
Investment in their career with progression opportunities Loyalty and potential for employees to progress in your business

By investing in your staff through training, you’re also making your business a workplace of choice for potential employees who are seeking the ideal company to work for. Ongoing professional development is the third-most important element that workers look for when considering a role in a company (behind flexible working conditions and opportunities for career progression).

Employee Engagement & Retention

Employees are more likely to stay with businesses that invest in their training and development. In fact, 84% of workers are more committed to an employer who invests in their professional growth, while 70% would look elsewhere for work if training opportunities were lacking.

Rebecca Fraser, Executive Committee Member of the Career Development Association of Australia, knows the importance of training for employee engagement and retention, and the risks if a program isn’t in place. The HR and learning and organisational development specialist says: Research is showing us that development is a retaining character for employees and they will be seeking development within their roles. If they do not get this, or the organisation does not have a culture of growth and development, there will be more challenges with retaining key staff.”

Who Should Undergo Training?

The short answer is EVERYONE. An effective learning and development program will provide all employees with the opportunity to have an input into their on-going development. Start this process by scheduling quarterly ‘check-ins’ with your staff to discuss their needs and what development options may best support them.

When it comes to specific skills that may be required across your business, conducting an audit with your staff can be an effective way to identify what skills currently exist and what gaps there are that are limiting the growth of your business. Creating a business training plan can help you identify and prioritise the training requirements of your staff.

Training Your High Performers

Identifying and nurturing the growth needs of your high performers can pay dividends for your business. As part of your regular reviews, ask your top performing staff what their career aspirations are and how you can support them through professional development opportunities. A coaching or mentoring system is an effective way to provide guidance and development to your high performers and ensures you keep the finger on the pulse of their ambitions through more regular check-ins.

It's important to be realistic and understand that high performing talent will be focused on their growth and development needs. Contrary to the belief that they may leave you and take their new skills with them, high performers may be inclined to put their new learnings to work while they climb the ladder at your business. So, don’t just support their development, encourage it.

Training at Tertiary Level

Tertiary education often requires an investment into the tens of thousands of dollars and a significant amount of time dedicated to studying. If you are considering supporting an employee through tertiary education, it's a good idea to develop a policy that outlines the following:

  1. Eligibility criteria to undertake tertiary study, such as how long they should have been an employee to qualify for support.
  2. The level of financial contribution by the business, which may include tuition fees, books, resources or subscriptions.
  3. Whether time off for study is subsidised or a flexible working arrangement is available.
  4. How the workload of the role will be managed, especially if reduced hours are required to complete the study.
  5. A mandatory employment period following the completion of the study, or a pay-back policy should they resign early.

Tertiary training can be very beneficial, for both the employee and the employer, with a higher level of knowledge and thought process being developed. Don’t be put off by the potential cost; instead, have policies in place to protect and support both parties.

When Should You Train Your Staff?

When it comes to providing training for the majority of your staff, get the most bang for your training buck by investing in smaller, more regular sessions. Scheduling one or two training sessions per quarter can make the learning process more effective.

It takes around 40 days for people to integrate learnings from training into their day-to-day role, so it's ideal to give them time to put into practice their newfound skills before moving on to the next topic. This approach provides a consistent injection of training throughout the year with results leading to exponential growth of awareness, output and quality.

But it’s not all about structured courses. Only 10% of our training is formal, with a further 70% occurring on-the-job through daily experiences and interactions. So really, your staff are learning all the time; make sure your business has a culture of supporting learning, development and engagement to nurture this.

Alison Causebrook, General Manager – Corporate People and Learning at Flight Centre Travel Group, knows the importance of culture and an effective business model for staff development: “We have a robust and systemised communication model in teams and with peers and leaders that facilitates performance improvement. Examples of these are the structure and content of our weekly business meetings, monthly performance improvement conversations known as one-on-ones, plus a variety of formal and informal curated sales and leadership learning forums. Our open plan seating with peers and complete accessibility to leaders and subject matter experts within our business at any time also greatly supports on the job, just-in-time learning.”

Types of Training: Hard vs Soft Skills

There will always be some level of technical skill required to complete a job. However, there is a significant swing toward investing in soft skills. Both types of skills are important and your staff will bring a unique combination to their role.

Training your staff in technical skills, or hard skills that can be taught and learnt will ensure they have the practical understanding and abilities to perform their jobs. While you may hire staff based on their specific or current technical skills, there are often areas that require training and regular updates to qualifications or certifications (think: software updates or machinery operation tickets).

But it is soft skills that may make the biggest difference to your workforce. Soft skills, such as communication, teamwork, leadership and problem solving, are crucial for how your employees interact and work with others. Soft skill training may not be as cut-and-dry as learning a technical skill but maybe even more crucial. With technology moving many physical tasks toward automation, soft skills are becoming more valuable in the workplace, and could just be the best career investment for your employees.

Focus on Soft Skills for Growth

Businesses who want to be equipped for their future needs should invest in the development of their staff's soft skills to foster growth. Those with a growth mindset, as opposed to a fixed mindset, believe that they can expand and develop, and they see the benefits in their efforts. This mindset can be explored through learning, practising, being inquisitive and implementing effective strategies.

Preetie Shehkkar, Director of Glass Rock Consulting, sees the benefits of training in soft skills with her clients on a daily basis and believes this is where training budgets should be focused: Many companies may tick their training box by putting staff through tech training and upskilling in this way. This is important when it is relevant, however, it is the soft skills training that is crucial. Employees are not machines, they are human beings, and the more you invest in human beings the greater the return. Soft skills training focuses on the human element and this is the part that robotics can't replace, not yet anyway.”

Consider Your Budget

So, you’re ready to invest in your staff through training, but unsure how to allocate budget? It’s important to start by ensuring that learning and development needs align with your business objectives. Then, estimate costs based on your predetermined training needs. You may need to factor in costs associated with the training, such as instructor fees and course materials, travel requirements, staff wages while on training, costs of technology and overheads.

Keep an eye out for efficiencies and where you can do more with less. For example, if you are hiring an expert to run an in-house course for staff, ensure you fill the quota for the course.

Government funding or bursaries

While 73% of workers expect their employers to pay for their training, your business may be eligible for financial support in the form of grants or bursaries to assist with funding staff training.

The Australian Government provides funding assistance for staff training and runs events and workshops that may assist in skill development. There are also incentives available for employers looking to take on an apprentice or trainee, and education and training grants to support the transition of young people into the workforce.

Train and gain

From improving efficiencies, loyalty and morale, putting your staff through training could be the best investment you make in your business. And with so many options available, there are plenty of opportunities to engage your staff in their development.

To get you started, we run free webinars on a range of business topics, including travel product training. Sign up to our eNews via the form below to receive updates straight to your inbox.