The Strategic Value of Workplace Training and Development

Workplace Training and Development

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Here’s what you’ll find covered in this White Paper:

  • How does Training add value to your organization?
  • Why should Training and Professional Development be part of your strategy?
  • Where, exactly, is the return on your investment and how do you measure it?
  • How to increase value through e-Learning
  • How to develop strategies for Training and Development

Excerpt from “The Strategic Value of Workplace Training and Development”:

Training can be defined as the process of teaching or learning a skill. That’s the textbook definition. But in reality, the concept of training has many more aspects than just learning a skill. To many organizations, training is a means of meeting regulatory or legal requirements. Common to this purpose, for example, is training employees in the rules of sexual harassment in the workplace. There are other examples, as well: Safety Training for employees working with industrial equipment to meet insurance requirements or training in the organization’s policy and procedures. There is management training, too. One of the programs we see quite frequently is Training for New Supervisors. (You can find an expanded list of typical training courses on the eLeaP Learning Management System’s website).

Training can also become a means of altering behavior – not in a punitive way, but so that gaps in organizational performance can be closed. Common to this thread is the findings of an audit, financial or for certification. On occasion, findings require corrective action and if that affects a relatively large number of employees, training is often the solution to meeting the requirements.

For the individual, training can be a way to earn professional certification. Although some certifications may involve learning new skills, it is not directly focused on them nor is it the primary motivating factor. Likely, the motivation for gaining professional certification is to advance one’s career or become more employable. We consider this “professional development.”

There’s no argument that compliance or certification training is very important – to the organization, to the individual, or both. But the questions that we hear again and again are these: “How does training add value to my organization?”, “Why should training and professional development be a part of our strategy?”, “Where, exactly, is the return on the training investment?”

Those are the questions we will seek to answer in the sections that follow.

1. The Intended Purpose of Training: While we’ve pointed out some of the uses of training, to understand its strategic value we have to look a bit deeper. We need to examine what exactly are the attributes of a good training program so that we can effectively employ them. Let’s look at some of the common benefits of effective training.

a. Productivity. Effective training should enhance the methods that individuals use to perform their jobs, thus improving their productivity. An increase in productivity that reduces labor costs generally means a more profitable organization.

b. Quality. Similarly, providing the proper training for recognizing quality concerns should result in improved quality and fewer returns or repairs. This will reduce the overall cost of operations and so generate increased profits.

c. Empowerment. Training that is directed to new methods that can be used on the job adds to employee confidence and enables them to perform more effectively. This also reduces the need for close supervision.

d. Alignment. Training should be directed to aligning the individual with the organization’s objectives. Employees need to know where the organization is heading and how they can best support its goals. Without a clear understanding of what the organization needs, and how to provide it, it is much more difficult for employees to work effectively.

e. Teamwork. We must all learn to work as a team. This ability is never a given. We know that organizations form teams in varying ways and with varying objectives; that’s why orchestras practice and why football teams hold repeated drills. Being able to work closely with teammates provides greater flexibility and agility.

f. Liability. Reducing workplace accidents is often a function of understanding proper procedures and following specific safety guidelines. A reduced injury experience results in lower insurance costs and less lost time at work. It’s clear to most trainers that this requires constant awareness: an awareness enhanced through training.

g. Risk Risk reduction is an important consideration for organizations, not only to avoid liability but to address quality and schedule issues as well. What are the risks of an adverse situation under x and y circumstances? How do we measure risk and monitor it? More importantly, perhaps, how do we avoid risk altogether or mitigate it? Employees should be trained to recognize risk factors and how to take corrective action to effectively deal with them.

h. Professional Development. Professional development supports employees in gaining a wider perspective in their jobs and in their personal lives. In many professions, such as in Medicine or Education, continuing education is a requirement for maintaining certification. The general goal of continuing education is to bring professionals up to date on current practices and to prepare them for taking effective action in new and unique circumstances.

Professional development also helps employees to advance their careers. It has been estimated that over 20% of all training dollars spent are directed to leadership development and management or supervisory training. This is probably the largest area of spending outside of a specific industry. Many organizations subscribe to services such as the Harvard Business Review or Skillsoft that provide training and information in the so-called “soft skills” of business theory and leadership. The nature of the training offered expands the thought horizons for most individuals, exposing them to new, and often challenging, concepts that support their professional growth.

i. Business Conduct and Social Responsibility. This is a very real concern today, considering the high profile corruption cases we have seen and the state of our environment. Everyone needs to understand their obligations to their employers and to their communities, and how to conduct them in a manner that does not compromise ethical behavior. A good deal of this must be conveyed to the workforce based on the specific requirements of the organization and its codes.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of the benefits we seek to achieve through training. It is simply intended to provide a starting point from which to evaluate the role and value of training in the workplace.

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