Appeared in Melita Group Newsletter Q4 2015 — By: Beth Weisberg, Sr. Training Consultant for Melita
Even the most talented employees don’t always come into our workplaces with all the skills we need — especially in the areas of communication; team skills; getting along with and working effectively with people who are all vastly different; the tremendously important Emotional Intelligence skills of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management; and more. We easily fall into the trap of making way too many assumptions about what people “know,” yet when asked if they’ve been adequately trained in a great variety of areas, a surprising number of employees will answer “no.”
In a time when many surveys of employee engagement find alarmingly low levels of engagement, plentiful data shows that learning and development opportunities result in increased employee engagement and retention. In one survey by the Association for Talent Development (formerly American Society for Training and Development), a majority of employees responded that training or learning opportunities “positively influence their engagement.” By and large, employees view employer-provided learning opportunities as a perk, and like other perks, an indication that their employer cares – about them. And in a time when “job security” in the traditional sense no longer exists, employees view opportunities to acquire and further develop skills as their path to future employment.
Training allows employers to communicate expected standards of behavior in a constructive rather than a punitive way, and to encourage employees to examine their own behavior and recognize where it falls short of the mark. We too often don’t get the behaviors we want from employees, not because they aren’t willing, but because they aren’t even aware that their behavior is problematic. A common refrain is “I didn’t know.” Even when employees do know what constitutes unacceptable behavior, they often never imagine we could be talking about them. Not because they’re clueless, but because so much of the time people’s behavior is automatic rather than intentional.
Research into the fields of neuroscience and emotional intelligence in recent years has forever changed the workplace landscape. We now know that many of the methods we’ve used in the past to affect employee behavior in fact accomplish the exact opposite of what we want. Case in point: subjecting employees to tremendous pressure can trigger the emotional brain to highjack the thinking brain, rendering employees flatly incapable of giving us the performance we need (management needs to be retrained, too!). Furthermore, what we’ve learned from research about how the brain works and how people learn best has greatly altered how we devise learning opportunities, with the result that “training” can be more effective than ever before.
The cost of not training far exceeds any cost in time and money that we invest in training. Among the costs to a company where training is not a regular part of the knowledge ecosystem are poor morale, disengaged employees, unhealthy interpersonal conflict, fragmented teams, lost productivity, all having a negative impact on business results. And let us not forget that scariest specter of all: costly employment lawsuits arising from a lack of awareness of workplace behaviors which are illegal, offensive, and/or abusive.
Companies that thrive invest time and money in their employees, and training looms large among the investments they make. A 2014 blog post in the Huffington Post, Not Investing in Employee Training Is Risky Business, offers these statistics: “HR Magazine reports that companies investing $1,500 or more per employee per year on training average 24% higher profit margins than companies with lower yearly training investments. The American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) collected training information from over 2,500 firms and found that companies that offer comprehensive training:
- “Have 218% higher income per employee than those with less comprehensive training,
- Enjoy a 24% higher profit margin than those who spend less on training, and
- Generate a 6% higher shareholder return if the training expenditure per employee increases by $680.”
And according to Great Place to Work, the source for the 100 Best Companies to Work For, “more than any other area this year, employee development efforts were again identified by the 2014 100 Best Companies as a top priority.”
Which will it be for your company: invest in training and thrive, or engage in the “risky business” of not investing in training?
Contact me to explore solutions for your training needs.