One of the first casualties in any economic squeeze is training. But those who have lived through many year-end budget cuts emphasize that this is a rookie move. Cutting training for short-tem cost savings actually costs money in the long run.
“As a retention tool, training and education benefits both employers and their workforce,” writes Sharon Florentine in CIO. “For employers, building on their existing talent pool with new technical and soft skills can help their business and—to an extent—eliminate the need to hire additional resources. From an employee perspective, gaining new skills to apply to a current job, or gaining new skills like project management, negotiation, leadership and others can be a path to a promotion or to landing a new position after a period of unemployment.”
In fact, social selling evangelist Jill Rowley advocates that companies buying new tools should plan to spend at least as much on training for those tools, if not more. “People need training that doesn’t suck,” she advises.
Don’t have the travel budget to send your employee to another city for a week? Look to Massive Open Online Classes (MOOCs) and all other sorts of free training where employees can learn at their own pace and not have to sit in a classroom, Florentine writes.
If the pressure is on to cut costs now that the year-end numbers aren’t syncing up with budget actuals, consider the benefits of training before you make a move:
Training saves money. It may be cheaper to train one of your existing staffers in a new technology than to hire a new person who already knows the technology but must be trained in other areas. Even if you’re still a COBOL shop, new technologies are being developed all the time, and it’s useful to be able to make use of them. Given the employee shortages in some key technology areas, such as data science, it might be easier, as well as less expensive, to train existing employees rather than find new ones.
Training makes employees feel valued—which keeps them around. “Employees experience a ‘sticky’ feeling when a company invests in their success by shelling out hundreds or thousands of dollars for training courses designed to improve their skill sets,” writes Jonathan Hassell in CIO. “They feel appreciated and heard, that their employer has (at least some of) their best interests at heart.”
“Keeping your technology environments and solutions platforms current can help keep valuable employees excited about and engaged in the direction the company’s going,” concurs Florentine.
Training offers your staff career paths at your company. A recent survey by O’Reilly Media found that people who knew both cutting-edge technologies and existing ones had higher salaries than people who knew just the existing technologies, even if the existing technologies were more widely used. If people don’t have a career path at your company, chances are they’ll find another company where they do.
In fact, some experts say that employees should take the lead in training themselves. A Computerworld survey of 489 IT professionals found that 62 percent of the respondents reported that they have paid for training out of their own pockets. Some companies are actually moving to having employees pay for a share of their training. Alternatively, even if the company pays the bill, employees are asked to take training on their own time. This investment is thought to make employees take training more seriously.
Of course, training in communication, leadership, and management is useful, too. Offering these opportunities in soft skills training makes it easier to recruit new employees.
Let’s look at it another way. What’s the worst that can happen without training? Plenty, according to IT blogger Mike McBride.
“If you put someone in front of a new tool, they’ll figure out how to do the same thing they were always doing, and nothing more,” he writes. “The new tool is supposed to change the way you are doing things, making your staff more efficient and productive, if not outright giving them the capability to do some great new work. How are they going to do that without someone leading them and challenging them to not only learn the tool, but learn a different workflow?”
Moreover, a lack of training, or poor training, can make it more difficult to implement a new tool, because users have a bad first experience with it, he continues.
Ultimately, for training to be successful, it needs to recall the words of Benjamin Franklin: “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”
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