Fifteen Reasons You Need to Invest in Employee Training
As overheard somewhere in a company parking lot…
CFO: “What happens when we invest in training our staff and our staff leave?”
CEO: “What happens when we do not invest in training and everyone stays?”
This old saw has been around for a while, and it should probably stick around for a while. In fact, I’d stick it on every manager’s door.
It’s completely mystifying how some leaders and companies still don’t value employee training or treat it as a priority. Stories of new hire orientations lasting half an hour (half an hour!) are still all too commonplace, as are tales of companies who never get around to training because they’re too busy focusing on the day-to-day issues to look beyond the horizon. And then there are the companies that cut back on training the moment the economy hits a speed bump – the exact time they could most benefit from relevant training.
Investing in employee training isn’t just an investment in your employees, it’s an investment in your future success. Here are fifteen reasons you absolutely need to commit to employee training and make it a top priority in your workplace.
#1. Your employees are your #1 resource. I know they are because you told them they were in your help wanted ads. And it’s right there on your list of values! Great companies invest in employee training because they back those words with action. They fulfill the commitment to their employees by investing in their professional development.
#2. Regardless of what business you are in, culture drives success. Strong cultures attract top talent, retain top talent, and turn customers into raving, passionate fans. But great cultures don’t happen by accident! You need to be intentional about building a great culture and one of the ways to do just that is through offsite retreats and meeting experiences that both drive and reflect the culture you desire and by bringing in professional speakers and trainers who can offer a fresh perspective on culture-related topics.
#3. Committing to customer service excellence requires an investment in training for customer service excellence. Whenever I encounter bad customer service my first thought is usually, “Poor training.” Which sadly, all too often means no training. Your customer service is your #1 competitive advantage and in a world full of uncertainties and unprecedented levels of change, it’s one of the few things you have 100% control over.
#4. Intensive training programs foster camaraderie and help break down silos. One of the reasons the on-line shoe company Zappos invests in a four-week intensive boot camp for all new hires is to help foster the sense that everyone is on the same team. Zappos’ employees who end up working in different parts of the company forge long-lasting bonds with one another during the four-week boot camp which strengthens its world-famous culture and helps destroy costly workplace silos.
#5. A sense of progress helps employees feel engaged and motivated in their work. In survey after survey employees stress how important it is for them to feel challenged and have a sense of growth in their career. When people aren’t making progress in their work it begins to feel like the movie Groundhog Day, but when employees develop new skills and learn through training opportunities it helps them shift from an “it’s-only-a-job” mindset to a deeper level of engagement and ownership.
#6. We’re in a knowledge-based economy where smart companies are in fact paying their employees to think. Smart companies invest in making their employees smarter. It’s simply the smart thing to do if you want to remain competitive.
#7. Exposing employees to new ideas helps spark creative thinking and innovation. Daniel Burnham and John Root, the architects who created the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, understood the importance of creating an interesting work environment to spark creative thinking, which is why they installed a gym in their office, played piano for employees and even offered employees fencing lessons.
What do fencing lessons have to do with designing a world’s fair? More than you might think. Many organizations are realizing the benefits of offering a variety of atypical training programs and classes as a way to spark creative thinking. Pixar Studios has its very own Pixar University, where employees can take up to four hours of classes each week, not just in film making, but in other arts, health-related issues, and any topic of interest to their employees. The courses help boost engagement, facilitate relationship-building across different departments and, Pixar believes, nurtures creativity throughout the company.
Employees at the U.K. firm ?What If! (yes, that’s their name) regularly participate in activities such as exotic dance lessons, tree planting, and trapeze lessons to stimulate creative connections.
So as much as it can help to hire professional speakers to talk creativity and innovation in the workplace, don’t discount the value of bringing in a chef over lunch to teach employees how to make a souffle that never flops…or a professional juggler, magician, chess master, mechanic, or, yes, even a fencing trainer.
#8. Many companies use training opportunities as a way to recognize, appreciate and reward employees. Surveys suggest that one of the number one reasons employees leave organizations is because they feel unappreciated – so why not add training opportunities to your recognition tool box? Training opportunities offer a great perk for employees and the chance to grow your intellectual capital all at once. Rewards based on experiences rather than on material objects (including cash bonuses) are also far more effective at boosting long term happiness levels.
#9. Training opportunities offer an unexpected break to the normal workplace routine. Variety isn’t just the spice of life when it comes to enhancing creativity, it’s also an effective stress reducer and a way to give employees a much-desired change of pace.
#10. Training opportunities can strengthen workplace relationships. Research from Gallup shows that there’s only a one in twelve chance of an employee being fully engaged in their work if they have no close friends at work. On the other hand, having at least three friends at work increases engagement and life satisfaction by a whopping 96%. Numerous other studies also demonstrate the importance of employees having friends at work. Now of course there are dozens of factors at play when it comes to turning workplace acquaintances into friends, and of course it isn’t going to always happen, but one way to strengthen relationship bonds between employees is through group training programs that offer the opportunity for employees to discover similarities with one another, bond over shared experiences and get to know one another outside a traditional workplace setting.
#11. A strong sense of pride is a key factor in employee motivation. Intrinsic motivators, like pride, are far more effective and longer-lasting than external rewards such as cash bonuses. One way to increase an employee’s sense of pride is by helping them gain confidence in their abilities and helping them learn new skills through educational opportunities.
#12. As with great workplace cultures, inspiring leadership doesn’t just happen. Plunking employees into leadership positions without any leadership training is a sure fire recipe for disaster, not only for the employee, but for the entire team, organization and for the leaders themselves. No matter how competent a person was in their previous job, or even how competent a manager they are, leadership requires a completely different skill set. Great leadership doesn’t just happen, which is why great organizations invest heavily in leadership development.
#13. Adult learning research shows that one of the most effective ways to really master a subject deeply is to encourage the student to become the teacher. When employees are given the opportunity to facilitate a training session, it accelerates their own professional development.
#14. External speakers and trainers bring an outsider’s perspective and offer new insights and ideas that are necessary if you want to remain competitive, adapt to an always-changing business environment, and prevent your company from becoming complacent or suffering from group think. History is littered with stories that demonstrate – usually only with hindsight – how dangerous group think and complacency can be. If you are not continually challenging yourself with outside perspectives, even those you don’t always agree with, it’s just a matter of time before you could end up atop the junk heap of failed businesses.
#15. Conferences, meetings and training opportunities can and should be fun! (And if they aren’t, you’re doing them wrong!) Given the enormous benefits of injecting more fun and humor into any workplace setting, upping the educational opportunities is yet one more way to bring some fun energy into your workplace.
Given all the benefits of training now consider this: What are the potential costs of not training your employees properly? How much might a lack of training be costing you in terms of increased stress and conflict, lousy customer service that leads to a loss in business, increased employee turnover and higher absenteeism rates? What are the hidden costs associated with unrealized ideas and a soul-draining, fun-sucking workplace culture? And what if our imaginary CEO is right: What if you don’t invest in training and your employees stay?
To attract and retain top talent, build a world class organization, and get the results you deserve, you need to invest in your future success by investing in training. And while you’re at it, maybe fire our imaginary CFO and invest in one who understands the true value of investing in employees.
Michael Kerr, www.HumoratWork.com
Michael researches, writes, and speaks about inspiring workplace cultures, inspiring leaders, and organizations that leverage their humor resources to deliver outrageous results. His latest book is called, “The Humor Advantage: Why Some Businesses Are Laughing All the Way to the Bank.”
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