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Develop Your Employees

Develop Your EmployeesWhen businesses struggle, one of the first things to be cut is employee training. However, when companies are struggling, they are only going to get out of their current position and begin to move forward when they become creative in launching products and services that enable for expanding the client base and meeting client needs and find ways to compete effectively. But employees are needed to achieve these goals. Yes, waste has to be reduced and expenses lowered, but training your employees to help you achieve goals and objectives is hardly waste!

More than one of my clients are getting pressure to reduce employee training costs in 2014. I am working with a few of them to show the value of the training they have provided and to work with them to align the training to meeting organizational goals. (See previous blog post: Align Training Plans to Organizational Goals.) For one client, it is a bit more challenging because they have traditionally looked at how many employees have attended training programs launched within the company. While this is certainly one statistic, it hardly warrants expanding or keeping a current training budget. I connsider it a weak (but interesting) statistic. What is more important is not how much training has been attended by each employee but rather what have they done with that training. What impact has the training had on their ability to perform their roles and responsibilities within the organization.

Let’s consider this more challenging situation for this article. We are going to take the following steps to understand the value of the training provided to employees over the last 2 years:

  • Survey all employees who have taken training to understand their perspective of how the training how helped them in their roles
  • Survey all managers of those employees to understand from their perspective where they have seen improvement in skills or an increase in knowledge based on training taken

It will be important to separate the training from something else that may have occurred. So, for example, if the employee states they are doing a better job performing a task because of training, we will also look at if anything else changed during that time period that may have impacted their doing a better job (e.g., a new process was put in place, new technology is being used.) This isn’t stating the training was of no value, but provides more credibility because we aren’t taken all of the credit for any improvement realized.

We will also be reviewing the organization’s long-term goals to determine what is needed in the way of workforce and skills of workforce to help achieve those goals. Once we have that information, we’ll look at employees’ current skills to understand what they have and where they are lacking. This enables us to develop future training that is aligned to meeting the organizational goals. Some of the training programs currently available may be good as is, need a bit of tweaking, or might need to be retired as they no longer are of value within the organization.

Moving forward, all training provided will include action planning to ensure that employees have a plan to utilize the skills they are learning in the program. And, we’ll be surveying employees and their managers at 3 and 6 month intervals to see if there is improvement in getting the work done after training programs have been completed.

Back to the main article about developing your employees. If you are going to effectively develop your employees utilizing training programs that make sense to meet needs, you must understand what the needs are now and in the future. To understand future workforce skills and knowledge needs, you need to understand the goals of the organization. Where does the organization want to be in 3, 5, 10+ years?

Evaluate the current skills of employees – where are their strengths and development areas? What will they need in new skills in order to continue to grow within the organization? And – what do your employees want? What are their professional goals?

Look beyond training programs. Other effective ways to develop employees’ skills and build knowledge include:

  • Assigning employees to challenging projects or assignments (stretch assignments)
  • Having book clubs where a group of employees read a leadership-focused book and comment on how they might use the skills discussed in the book
  • Promote and encourage mentoring
  • Enable for attendance at conferences or other relevant industry events
  • Enable for lunch & learn sessions where employees share knowledge with others over lunch

Regardless of how you help employees develop their skills and increase their knowledge, be sure to evaluate the effectiveness of the method utilized! You’ll want this data to prove the value of investing in employees.