In The Workplace

We have a very tight budget for training with the business not earning much. We have found it necessary to stop organizing seminars as we aren’t seeing a good return on investment (RoI). Is this wise? — Lady Bug.

If the issue is purely RoI, then why stop training? Why don’t you investigate why employee training programs are not meeting your organizational expectations? There are many possible reasons. You should be the first person to find out, with your conclusions based on verifiable facts, not biased opinions.

Henry Ford was right in saying: “Don’t find fault, find the remedy.” That means we should not point an accusing finger at anyone, including the resource speaker, the training manager, the workers who participated in those programs or even the management that approved such programs.

Instead, we should focus on the training method, the equipment used, the training room, the course design, even the dates chosen for training, among others. A better approach is to understand all possible issues, including those that are invisible from the comforts of your air-conditioned room.

British billionaire and entrepreneur Richard Branson tells us the best way to succeed in business is through employee training. “Train your employees well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to,” he said. That is the kind of management star power that believes in training, which cannot be ignored.

A training program need not be expensive. In fact, you don’t have to spend money if you know what to do. There are many options for improving your employees’ knowledge, attitude, skills and habits. Management needs only to exercise a little creativity. These approaches might be useful:

One, line management mentoring. This can only succeed with the active help of line leaders, supervisors and managers. After all, mentoring the workers is related to the performance appraisals of both the mentor and mentee. No line manager can refuse to mentor workers as it is a primary management responsibility.

Two, off-the-job training. Off-the-job training is a temporary transfer to another unit, section or department to understand a job process related to the work they’re doing in their original posting.

Three, secondment to affiliate companies. This option is unknown to many organizations and yet effective for improving not only individual worker performances but also the relationship between two group companies, or even between a supplier and a client. It’s a temporary assignment of six months at most, or as soon as the seconded worker is ready to return to the original job.

Last, free online courses for everyone. Many free online courses are available, on a variety of topics, by Coursera or other organizations. The challenge is to convince workers to do it during their free time.

For many people, training is an important aspect of their work life. Psychology tells us that ability and motivation produces superior employee performance. But how can ability improve without training? For the workers who are not receiving above-average pay and perks, training should be considered the best available reward.

That is, if you follow the advice of Richard Branson and treat the workers well. Good treatment offers them no pretext to leave for another employer. When I say being treated well, it means being fair and humane, an aspect of management that cannot be ignored.

How does one treat people well enough so they don’t want to leave? The answer lies in the concept of intrinsic reward. To discover what drives people, you and every line executive must strive to talk to the workers casually at opportune times. Your discussions could include the following questions:

How can I help you achieve your career goals in this organization? What are your challenges, or at least those that are within our control to solve? What would you like us to do? Find out how your direct reports respond. Their answers might surprise you.

One last thing: Proactive communication involves countless hours of face-to-face, back-and-forth meetings, either in person or online, in which managers must do more listening than talking.


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