Learning makes happier employees – and more profit

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Learning makes happier employees – and more profit

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Ongoing employee development isn’t the only thing you need to do. But it is one of them.

Employees are an expensive asset

After conducting and interview I once heard (in horror) the interviewer say “look – how about we employ the candidate and if they get fed up after 18 months, then they will probably leave”. Apart from being a waste of an asset, the interviewer has lost sight of the human. That human wanted to join the business to contribute, be recognised and challenged, to learn and the stay the distance. They might also have a family, mortgage, student loans and the like.

Employees are an expensive asset, and like all assets they should be nurtured for the benefit of the business. And although there are exceptions to every rule, we humans like to learn things and develop skills. Learning and development will make human asset feel more fulfilled, happier and valued; and make them more productive and engaged.

So, clearly learning and development is a “win-win”.  So why do so many managers fail to develop their staff?

Manager failure

There are so many reasons why management fail to “get” it, and probably too many reasons to detail here. But here are a few reasons I’ve heard:

  • It’s a waste of money when budgets are tight
  • The training offering is poor or not relevant
  • We cannot spare the time

But there is more to it than that. Bigger companies often have a more robust “process” for delivering training, but that can mean employees are forced to sit irrelevant courses and are made to feel bad if they don’t hit a pass mark. When at one large company, I had to complete training that was a requirement for US sales staff even though I was not in the US nor a sales person. Why – because my manager wanted 100% of the staff to pass the course so that he met his Key Performance Indicator (i.e. – he got a better bonus payment). The course itself was fine but was a waste of my resource.

But humans also don’t like to fail or seem to be wanting, and – in the face of “you must achieve this” – I have seen unparalleled relief on peoples faces when they realise they can skip an onerous course.

All of this is not a failure of employees. It is a failure of management.

Realising that win-win

So – what do do? One answer is to plan for a successful training outcome for each and every employee in your reporting line. This can sound like a lot of hard work for the manager – but in fact if it is hard work for the manager, then the manager probably isn’t doing it effectively. Maybe the manager needs training on how to deliver effective training.

Below is a simple framework as a starting point:

  1. Set clear goals. Align your training plan with what the business needs to deliver, such as:
    1. Strategic plans or areas of growth
    2. Company needs, like improving efficiency in an under-performing function, or core skills
    3. Changes in operating environment, like changes to regulations or competition
    4. Employee advancement like stepping up to a supervisor role
    5. Allow scope for personal development that doesn’t have a direct and immediate business benefit
  2. Go online. Classroom training is OK for certain things, perhaps a “safety in the office” session. But for most training, let staff run their own training, in their own time, without undue pressure to “pass”. Online training is:
    1. Usually more cost effective so you get better value for money
    2. Allow staff to learn at their own rate and devolves to them personal self-management and discipline
  3. Give the staff time and space. Set specific timelines for regulatory training when essential. Otherwise:
    1. Give them access to a learning portal, thus empowering them to learn
    2. Set broad timelines and agree the topics/courses – but let the employee take the lead
    3. Allow staff to schedule and run their own development
    4. Make sure they set aside, and actually get, the necessary time during the day to complete their training
  4. Bring them with you.
    1. Recognise when a goal is hit.
    2. Motive the individual and the team by rewarding and recognising achievement. Show how important it is.
  5. Monitor and measure.
    1. You cannot manage what you cannot measure, so make sure staff are taking the agreed work time for development
    2. Make sure everyone “gets with the program”