Recently, one of our clients expressed concerns about allocating a budget for training and asked, “What if I invest in training, and then employees move on, taking my investment with them to a competitor?” My response was, “What if you don’t train them, and they stay with you forever?”
By failing to make learning a high priority, chances are good that your organization will struggle to remain competitive because a large portion of your company’s success is dependent upon your employees. They are the ones on the front line, interacting with your customers, refining your processes, and producing and selling your products and services day after day, year after year. With the globalization of the workplace, and the incredible rate of change, continual learning and relearning is critical to the success of your business.
During the great recession, it was easy to justify not spending money on training. The strategic focus was on survival, not employee development. Unemployment remains high and employment options for your team members remain limited, unless they are highly skilled in areas of future growth. However, Deloitte, in their January 2012 “Talent Edge 2020,” noted that when executives were asked to list their three most pressing concerns about talent, the top concern for corporate leaders was brain drain. Over 70% of those surveyed were highly concerned about retaining critical talent over the next year. Fast Company goes on to say that their worries are well founded. Only about one of every three employees at large corporations expect to stay with their current employers when the recession ends.
In good times, it’s easy to allocate money for education. In the bad times, training is seen as a luxury that can be set aside for better times. Our premise is that even in the worst of times, out learning your competition is critical. Rather than making training decisions based on what’s left over in the budget, make decisions based on what the workforce needs in order to remain competitive. At least twice a year, conduct a training audit and prioritize needs. When doing so, consider these questions:
- When it comes to delivering great products and services to our customers, what are our strengths and where are our development opportunities?
- When we look to our future, what will our customers need tomorrow that today, they might not even know they need? Steve Jobs, who is known for this, said, You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.”
- What are our competitors doing that we could do better?
- What can we do differently to fulfill a previously unfilled customer need?
- If we developed our leadership team, what current issues could we overcome to create an environment where more employees love coming to work?
Once needs are identified, brainstorm ideas on how to most effectively and efficiently deliver the type of training that will deliver the results you have identified. When critical training needs are identified, resources are targeted, and the training is delivered, you will reap the rewards for years to come.
The days of guaranteed, long-term employee loyalty are over. Turnover will be the new norm. However, investing in your employees and leaders by providing educational opportunities and demonstrating a genuine concern for continuing their career development, will not only create better overall results, but will help you retain a talented, high performing team.