Employee training and development planning are crucial parts of management. Yet often, it is neglected or treated as an afterthought. In the developing stages especially, it is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day operations and forget about the long-term strategy. You may easily find yourself justifying delaying or minimising the training citing lack of time as your excuse.
But it is important to realise that your company and its staff have to come together as a unit in order to make your business profitable. The long-term goal is obviously success of your business and for the success of that goal, staff training becomes vital.
If your business directly deals with customers, you will find that training is often the difference between failure and success.
Let us look at some of the reasons why staff training is an important long-term investment:
Encouraging loyalty: Staff training increases the morale level of your employees and makes them feel important. If you invest in training, your employees will feel that you are interested in them, that you care about their performance. This in turn encourages loyalty to the company and inspires them to move upwards within the company.
Retaining top talent: Young and ambitious employees are eager to gain skills and want to advance. If they feel that your company is the ideal platform for their growth, they will stay. You can encourage this attitude by providing appropriate training and mentoring. If they do not receive the career development support they expect, these focussed youngsters waste no time in moving on. This is ultimately your loss as you will spend more for the frequent hiring process.
Making staff feel welcome: Every company has a unique way of doing things, a specific culture. A new employee can feel left-out initially. Staff training is one way of ensuring that new employees are able to fit in and understand how your business operates.
Increasing productivity: It is no surprise that loyal staff who feel that they are a part of the company work harder because they are invested in the company’s success. They will be willing to go beyond their regular duties in order to ensure that a customer is satisfied. If your employee morale is low, you will have many employees performing badly or less than their potential which will affect your bottom line.
Training on safe practices: If your business deals with hazardous materials or equipment, training is mandatory. Proper training will help to avoid personal injuries and damage to costly equipment, which will reduce your overall running cost in the long term. With such skilled work, it is also important to ensure that your workplace is designed in such a way that all employees can work to their potential.
Managing irate customers: This is inevitable when it comes to customer service. A single disgruntled customer can create a scene in your business premises which can affect the overall operation and company morale. Your staff should be trained to effectively deal with difficult customers in a way that defuses the situation instead of allowing it to worsen. An improperly trained staff member can easily lose control and cause you to lose a lot of business. The customer is not always right and if as an employer, you support your employees when they are right, it will go a long way in encouraging trust and loyalty.
Retaining customers by providing better service: Customer service begins even before a customer makes a purchase. It begins when you answer the phone, send a reply to a query through email, or when the customer enters the shop. A well-trained employee will be skilled at converting potential customers into actual customers as a result of their respectful attitude, excellent listening skills and helpful suggestions. Of course, the situation will vary depending on the type of products or services that your company sells. This is why focussed training is so essential.
How to provide training
Small businesses run on tight budgets, often find it difficult to allocate the funds or have the resources required for an in-house training programme. For such companies, alternative strategies might be helpful. These include:
• Courses run by training companies: While these courses are not specific to your business, you can find ones on customer service, management courses etc.
• Online courses: These allow your staff to study at their own pace, either at the workplace or at home. There are even interactive courses which may be used for behavioural training.
• Job shadowing: Another option for small businesses, new employees are allowed to follow an experienced employee around while he/she works. This allows them to learn all the aspects of the job and ask questions as and when they arise.
• Mentoring: Assign senior employees as mentors, so that new employees can run off ideas and ask for guidance through informal meetings or phone and email communication.
• Government funding: The National Workplace Development Fund offers subsidies for the training and development of new and existing workers in certain in-demand industries.
Proper staff training is an investment in the overall development of your business.
This includes initial training as well as continuing development programmes for existing employees. So remember that whilst it sometimes seems like a risk, and even a chore to spend your valuable time with staff, their improvement and development is ultimately key to maintaining healthy margins. Always include ongoing training as part of your long term plan.