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Is Training Relevant?

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As the economy continues to to be propped up on the shakiest of foundations, many employers are having to make decisions about where to invest their revenue.  Is it best placed in inventory as a hedge against inflation so that product components are purchased at a lower cost and able to be sold at a higher cost?  Should equipment, technology, and machinery be bought so that productivity can be increased – and possibly labor could be reduced, thereby getting a double benefit of reduced costs and increased produtivity.  A third option available to businesses is to invest in the skill development and competency enhancement of their employees.

Why Not Just Hire The Skills Initially?

There may be some business owners that would prefer to seek the requisite skills needed in their new hires.  The thinking is that rather than work to provide opportunities for employees to grow and evolve into positions; it is better to just seek people who have received that training elsewhere and bring them on-board.  The rationale for this thinking is that it is expensive to train, takes time, and very likely training is not a core strength of the organization.

Here is why that thinking can be problematic:

  1. The pace of a company’s needs often accelerate more quickly than can be sourced from the outside.  So, today’s skilled new hire may no longer be considered “best in class” in the next year or two.
  2. Even if someone has received training – it is often in need of refinement and customization to fit the new organization’s culture, objectives, methods, etc.  So, there is still a need for training.
  3. The salary requirements of a highly trained new hire will exceed the requirements of someone who is capable, but not as trained.
  4. If employees have all been trained elsewhere and are now working together at a new company, there is a strong likelihood that there will not be consistency of skills, approaches, and resources used in performing the tasks.

So, What Needs to be Trained?

A recent New York Times article that appeared in the June 20th edition http://boss.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/20/figuring-out-a-better-way-to-train-employees/  addressed how one business approached that decision.  The business owner spotlighted in the article, Paul Downs, was very clear that he wanted to focus on when he commented, “I’m not interested in training individuals to do something unless it’s necessary for that person’s specialized role.”  Training should initially be focused on the NEED to have and not on the NICE to have. 

As companies grow, they often find they will need to upgrade the tools used (computer applications or software, processes used to accomplish tasks, and the differing requirements of customers).  Those are all opportunities for training.  Mission-critical needs that are required to succeed are the first priority.

Who Does It?

Training is a decision that cannot be left to chance.

Training can often be accomplished in a mentor-mentee relationship where one helps another.  However, it is essential to ensure that the mentor is:

a) doing it correctly him or herself

b) has a skill to train and educate another.  Just simply being an expert is not sufficient to ensure successful training.

So, it is often necessary to have someone tasked with that responsibility to oversee that opportunities are identified and met.  In some situations, it is advisable to have an external consultant assist to be certain that things are done efficiently, effectively, and allow employees to focus on their jobs without having to come up to speed on a skill in order to train others.  Rather, the employees can learn from a true expert and then incorporate those skills into their own jobs.

David Zahn

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