The importance of training - a commitment to development (Article)
This free High Performance Newsletter article explores the staff development question facing many managers. A recent discussion with a senior manager prompted this article.
Managers have to make decisions about their commitment to staff development
Should you spend time and money developing your staff?
The answer is yes, but the question then becomes: how much?>
All the organisations I worked for as an employee had a strong commitment to training and development. Many organisations saw it as an obligation, not only to the organisation itself, but also to the wider community. The State Electricity Commission of Victoria had wide scale traineeship and apprenticeship programs. My private sector employers also had comprehensive internal skills development and management development programs.
In recent years, there has been a trend to recruit people who already had the skills. You were only employed if you already had the full range of skills necessary. Naturally, this was a short sighted approach, as evidenced by the widely discussed skills shortage in Australia and overseas. This assumed that somebody else was training your employees for you. If everyone makes this assumption, the whole system breaks down.
More recently, there has been another change. Many organisations are making a strong commitment to develop their talent from within. Many employers recognise that most skills can be taught and that expertise can be developed on the job. These employers focus more on selecting staff with the right attitudes and basic (generic) competencies like commitment and communication skills. The technical competencies are built on over a period of time.
A wide variety of options exist
I was personally very fortunate to be introduced to the concepts of continuous improvement and lifelong learning at an early age. The formal in-house training programs that I participated in complemented my formal tertiary studies. I sincerely appreciated the opportunities that were provided. I participated in many formal and informal development activities.
Development opportunities can also come through involvement in voluntary organisations. On a personal level, the opportunity to attend my first Train the Trainer program had a profound effect on my life. I will always be very thankful and very grateful for my Jaycee president saying: "Derek, I would like to nominate you for this course." That program cemented my lifelong involvement in training. Of course, through other development and training programs, I have broadened my range of activities, but training is still my core activity.
What is the best approach?
Research is now confirming the importance of 'engaged employees', a regular theme of mine.
Development and training is one easy way to help your employees become more engaged. People choose to work with organisations that encourage development. More importantly, employees stay with you if you continue to provide opportunities for development, whether formally or informally.
People produce their best work when they are interested and committed to what they do. If they believe in their organisation’s products and services, and they can see that the organisation values their contribution by supporting their development in concrete ways, they are very likely to be 'engaged'.
Can you provide too much development?
The discussion that prompted this article was with a senior company manager in an industry that had many larger competitors. We were discussing a staff member being nominated for a public training course. The manager was committed to staff development and felt that the nominee had a lot of potential. During the conversation, the manager commented that at some point in the future, the employee would probably outgrow the company, as there was an eventual upper limit to the scope and responsibilities of the position held. The employee would want to move to a bigger position with more diverse operations and a larger number of staff to manage.
The senior manger was still committed to providing the development opportunity. I have a bias (it was my public course we were discussing), but I think that this is the right approach. Most employees will move on at some stage, particularly those starting their careers. But as long as employees have the opportunities to grow and develop, they will be more inclined to stay. You want people to stay as long as they can, but like making the jump from secondary school to further studies, eventually it has to happen.
Organisations will gain the most from employees if the employees have the opportunity to develop their skills and competencies. A highly skilled employee is a very productive employee.
An organisation with a strong commitment to development is likely to have 'engaged' employees. An 'engaged' employee is a motivated employee.
A skilled and motivated employee is a high performance employee. Lots of high performance employees mean high performing organisations.
I strongly believe in the thoughts expressed in this article. Yes, I have a bias, because developing individuals and organisations is what I do. I am strongly engaged with my work. During every training course I receive feedback that shows me this is the right approach to take.
I encourage you to develop your employees. Your company will be rewarded, and so may you personally.
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Derek Stockley conducts public training courses in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, including a Public Train the Trainer Program.
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This article was last modified on 29 April 2013.