Preparing your team for now and the future

Do your employees have what it takes to succeed?

All too often business leaders are complaining about complex processes in their organisation. Their employees aren’t achieving as much or as fast as expected. The quality of work needs to be improved. Time is wasted as employees don’t know how to fully use the latest tools. Business results are lacking behind. Does this sound familiar?

No company can afford such inefficiencies. When was the last time you reviewed your approaches towards employee training and learning? Make it a priority and benefit from more engaged and more productive employees, increasing your revenue and overall market position.

While organisations need to prepare their employees for future demands, current skills also need to be established and enhanced. For some businesses, this becomes a fine balancing act. How do you invest in staff when employee turnover is so high?

Companies have different options to train employees:

  • Internal formal training. Set up by the subject matter expert in the field, they are sharing their skills and knowledge in a structured training on a one-to-one or a classroom like basis.
  • Internal job shadowing. This is more informal and allows the employee to follow (shadow) a colleague when handling a specific task. The employee first observes and can than apply their newly acquired skills first hand.
  • Internal development projects. These provide the employee with exposure to new skills and potentially other/new departments and stakeholders. They can accelerate the skills development and prepare high potential employees for their next role.
  • Internal coaching. A more experienced colleague in the field or a manager (not the line manager) shares their knowledge and provides guidance to the employee. It’s supportive and allows the employee to explore their concerns and motives with the coach. Coaching is one element of building a high-performance workforce.
  • External formal training. Various training providers offer structured courses for participants from different companies in a classroom like environment. Depending on the topic, these training courses may last 1-5 days and may have different levels to increase the participants’ knowledge (e.g. beginner, intermediate and advanced).
  • Self-learning options. The employee is put in charge of their own learning, whether through online modules, evening/weekend classes or internal sessions with their team. While larger organisations may have their own learning portals or corporate universities, smaller companies can benefits from training courses offered by Udemy, edX or LinkedIn. The plethora of courses available may overwhelm an employee and together with the line manager, the appropriate course needs to be selected.

Employees who have received training for their current role are shown more engaged at work. They are also happier and more committed to their work. As these employees see the company investing in them, loyalty towards the organisation increases and so does the likelihood to stay with the organisation.

The company can benefit from the investment in different ways. Numerous studies have found that more engaged employees are also performing at higher levels and are producing higher quality of work. They are more alert at work, reducing the number of absenteeism and reducing the number of work-related accidents.

The overall productivity increases which leads to higher sales turnover for the company. Even in a testing economic climate, organisation that invest in their employees are more stable and notice the challenges to a lesser degree.

Set the employee up for success

To achieve the performance goals set at the beginning of the month or year, an employee needs to be enabled to succeed. This fundamental requirement is unfortunately sometimes ignored when tools, systems or access rights aren’t provided to the employee. Any training given to the employee would then become meaningless. As an organisation, start with the basics and ensure your employees have been given the appropriate tools of the trade today.

Identify the gaps

With leaders giving more immediate and on-the-spot feedback, knowledge gaps can be discovered, often in a straight-forward way.

What needs to be trained? Does the employee have an expiring skill that needs to be updated? Think about skills that are no longer required (much). This could be a manual way of sorting a product on a production belt while the process is moving towards automation. It could also be the employee knowing Linux and in need of learning learn Java, which the current programming language used by the organisation.

And why? 1) Did the employee not know because they hadn’t been informed about the appropriate execution and/or behaviour? 2) Or did they not perform the task/demonstrate the behaviour because they didn’t want to? 3) Or does the employee want to learn more?

Decide on the appropriate training

Not knowing how to perform a task or which behaviour to display can make training easier. It’s often down to communication where guidance can be a good start. Line managers may already have an idea which type of training is suitable for their employee. This may be formal training by a colleague, within an external training setting or self-directed learning, as outlined above. If in doubt, HR has to support the line manager and the employee identifying the appropriate training or training mix. Whatever is given needs to be remembered and can’t just become some time away from the office.

Not wanting to perform the task according the required procedure or not acting within the company’s guidelines is more challenging and may be a performance management issue. Here, conversations and coaching discovering the underlying reasons for ignoring the organisation’s standards are required. The direct line manager should start such discussions before involving senior management and HR. They also need to support the company’s policies and guidelines by publicly demonstrating them living and adherence to them. Otherwise, changing behaviour becomes meaningless.

Involve the employee

Employees are often said to fall into the entitlement trap. “I will only participate in a training session when offered by my company.” This mentality has to be stopped! These days, organisations are placing the emphasis on career development and training on their employees: “My career, my drive” or “Be More” are just two examples.

Training opportunities can be combined with career development discussions and questions may also be asked around personal goals of an employee. It’s important to honestly discuss these objectives as they’ll form the basis for any training and development plan created for the employee. Line managers have to set realistic expectations. In times where budgets are often limited, an executive MBA may not be (fully) sponsored by the organisation, however, study leave may be granted or the organisation may be used as a case study. Often, post-graduate studies are looking at real business challenges and the organisation benefits from innovative solutions to fix an existing challenge.

A skills inventory helps organisations to track the available knowledge within the company. At first, the core skills may only be tracked and other skills can be added in phases. Alternatively and as part of a bigger project, all skills can be identified in one step and the different knowledge levels (e.g. non-existent, beginner, intermediate, advanced, expert) can be assigned to each employee.

Organisations use the inventory to identify the training needs for day-to-day operations on a short-term basis. The inventory can be used for project assignments and substitutes, for example, in case of unexpected long-term illnesses.

Define future skills

Besides looking at the immediate skills needs, companies should consider the emerging skills in the market place and the shifts in customer demands.

Customers and clients provide feedback and by listening to them, companies can predict future products/services needs. They can also predict the necessary skills sets to develop the future products/services. Industry groups and business leaders can also offer valuable insights into future demands.

During the regular business review meetings, senior management can also discuss the need to change existing processes, prepare for future automation and re-evaluate ways of working. While some may be quickly adjusted, others may require project teams to define an enhanced outcome. Such teams can provide additional input into skills requirement in the near future.

Line managers and HR have to collaborate to identify the appropriate training for each employee. The employee’s motivation for short, medium and long-term training has to be factored in. This is where line managers can bridge organisational requirements with individual goals.

While some skills sets are to be acquired over longer periods, certain industries are rapidly changing and require more agile learning opportunities. Short and mid-term requirements also need to be considered and can be integrated into the monthly and annual performance goals.

Reap the benefits

Companies which provide strategic training opportunities also connect learning with their internal succession planning. Traditionally, skills inventories were reserved for only larger corporations. These days, smaller companies that pro-actively review the internal knowledge can limit the disruption caused by the departure of a key employee.

Furthermore, training and skills inventories can support internal recruitment across functions. Companies can identify and select suitable candidates, without having to create “fake” advertisements. This saves line managers and HR time and avoids disappointment amongst employees, not qualified for the role. This approach will need to be reflected in the HR policies, rather than an “all vacancies must be published” one. For smaller organisations, this can also serve as a retention tool since employees are given exposure to other areas without the bureaucracy often experienced in large corporations.

Don’t forget to show the benefits of training to your staff. It leaves them inspired to participate when they see how their work processes become quicker and smoother after a training. It brings them closer to the achieving their annual performance goals and, if linked, any personal goals. It underlines commitment of the organisation to the employees’ career development, resulting in higher engagement and loyalty from the individual. This will support the change in mentality discussed above. Rather than placing the ownership of training on the company, the employee has to play an active part, too.

Is your organisation ready to benefit from more engaged and productive employees? We support organisations looking for individualised training solutions fit for their business now and in the future. Contact us and find out how we can support your company.

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