By Dr Barbara Rodgers-Newbold
2018 is fully underway and by now many of us have reviewed last year’s performance, outlined our goals for this year and recommitted ourselves to our New Year’s resolutions. It’s an exciting time of the year filled with endless possibilities. We are teeming with new ideas, armed with lessons learned from past mistakes, and optimistic this year will be better than the previous one.
For me, it’s a time for personal introspection, releasing the past and embracing new opportunities. For businesses, however, it is generally a time to begin focusing on ways to improve performance and increase productivity and profits.
If you are an astute businessperson, no doubt you have already begun strategising on how to accomplish your goals.
From experience, I will venture a guess that primary among those goals for many managers and businesses, is increasing your bottom line; and the strategy on how to achieve this is one I believe worth delving into. For many, it will be cutting costs by eliminating unnecessary spending and reducing overhead expenses, options one certainly cannot ignore. For others, the focus may be on debt reduction, collection of outstanding receivables, or even expanding or diversifying the business operations. But, whatever strategy you decide to use to improve your performance in this New Year, there is one more option you may want to consider that can be just as effective and rewarding. That option is investing in employee development training to enhance your employees’ performance and productivity.
Experience has repeatedly demonstrated to me the difference a trained employee makes on the level of productivity and efficiency in an organisation. It is the difference between being simply “functional” on the job and being a producer, an initiator or an innovator.
Having served as a training consultant, I have listened to employers lamenting the gap between employee competency and the skills needed in the workplace. Yet, while the concept of increasing performance through employee training is not a novel idea, many companies continue to overlook it in deference to the more expedient cost cutting options. For many managers, training is not always a priority as long as the employee can perform the basic tasks on the job; but, if increasing your bottom line is the goal, it should be!
While many employers and employees openly acknowledge that little attention is often given to employee development training, they will generally agree the positive impact of training on organisational performance and staff productivity can be far reaching.
Recently, I spoke to a group of people from various professional backgrounds on the importance of employee development training and was surprised to find there are still people who view training as adding only to the personal knowledge base of the employee undergoing the training and therefore beneficial only to that employee. My first thought was – wouldn’t knowledgeable employees be one of the primary ways by which companies can enhance performance?
While training does benefit employees by increasing their knowledge and skill sets, it also increases the company’s level of in-house expertise, necessary for increasing competency and overall proficiency. Training involves learning new skills and building capacity through the acquisition of practical and tacit knowledge. The decision to provide development training for employees should be regarded as a human capital investment to enhance performance, efficiency, and bottom line results.
Another common complaint on employee development training is the risk in training staff who can leave the company and use that knowledge to enrich another, sometimes competing, organisation. I acknowledge this is a valid concern. But I quickly counter this by reminding employers the pendulum swings both ways. The risk of losing qualified employees to a competitor is an inherent risk in doing business. But just as an employee is free to seek other pastures, so are employers free to recruit qualified and competent employees.
So, as you embark on your business strategies and goals for this year, begin by reviewing the skills you will need to achieve those goals. Analyse your employees’ strengths and weaknesses and identify the training needed to fill any skill or competency gaps. If you are interested in increasing productivity, growth and efficiency, my advice is to begin by boosting your employees’ capacity and skills through development training! Consider investing in the people on whom you are relying to make it all happen – your employees.
Dr Barbara Rodgers-Newbold is the Country Head for the University of The West Indies Open Campus Bahamas, a former corporate training consultant and part-time college/university lecturer. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org