Why building your worker’s employability makes perfect business sense

Tony Latter | 31st May 2018

Training staff Richard Branson quote on retention

Your business should never stagnate or stop developing. To ensure this never happens, you should continually invest in the development of your greatest asset – your staff.

Regular staff training is a key component in helping your people develop their skills and fulfil their duties to a higher standard. It will create a team of highly-skilled and loyal workers, who will repay your investment in them with an increase in productivity and performance.

Investing time and resources in training can be a big concern for many business leaders. It can also be the cause of a lot of debate in the boardroom. It is a fear for many leaders that the more they develop their staff, the more employable they will become; thus, resulting in them looking for more advanced roles elsewhere, or being poached by competitors. This should not be a concern. When you regularly train your people, and invest in their futures, they will feel valued and will likely return the favour. However, failure to focus on staff development will certainly result in your workforce looking for new employment.

The benefits

Continuous staff training ensures your people and business will continue to grow.

Here are some of the benefits of an effective training initiative:

  • Develop workers’ skills and knowledge.
  • Processes become more streamlined and effective.
  • Increase workplace happiness, motivation and engagement.
  • Improved customer service.
  • Empower your employees by making them feel valued.
  • Boost productivity and your bottom line.
  • Enable collaboration and team development.
  • Teach new skills and working methods that are aligned with company goals and objectives.

Let’s take a closer look at more ways that focusing on staff training will benefit your business and your balance sheet:

Attract and retain the best people:

To succeed in today’s working climate, you need the best people. This is no secret. Therefore, it is key to focus on boosting recruitment and retention rates. With ongoing training, you will create a team who feel valued and loyal to you. Regular training and investment in your people will also improve your employer branding and image. This will help you create a bigger talent pool when recruiting, as potential prospects may view you as a great employer who cares about staff development.

Reduce turnover:

By continually investing in your people, they will become happier and more engaged. This improves staff motivation and loyalty, whilst helping you to create brand advocates who are driven to help your business succeed. It will also reduce employee turnover and prevent competitors from luring away your best people by offering better training incentives.

Highlight future leaders for internal promotions:

Employing new staff is a lengthy and expensive process. With ongoing training, you can identify future leaders and your staff can learn skills which qualify them for internal promotions. This ensures you are saving money on recruitment and onboarding costs and you hire trusted people who already know the business inside out.

Identify skills gaps:

Through regular training, you can highlight and address any skills/knowledge gaps that require attention. By identifying these gaps early, you will be in a strong position to build the necessary skills to ensure your people can fulfil their roles with increased effectiveness and performance.

Now we know the benefits, let’s focus on how you can implement the most effective training initiatives:

What sort of training should you focus on?

Teach skills instead of traits:

Instead of attempting to change your employees’ personality traits, focus on training teachable skills instead. For example, if someone is naturally shy (trait), avoid convincing him/her to be more extroverted (trait) during sales calls. Instead, focus on teaching skills like active listening and mirroring to help them improve their ability to sell without losing confidence in their abilities.

Hands-on training:

To effectively embed and sustain a new skill, it is important to let your people put it into action as soon (and often) as possible. This will help build confidence in the skill, whilst reducing the chances of inexperience leading to costly or embarrassing mistakes.

Create a “liquid workforce”:

To ensure your people are multi-faceted, it is advisable to make efforts to train everyone to move away from the traditional hierarchical approach and work as a system of networks that collaborate with each other. This is known as a liquid workforce.

A liquid workforce rapidly adapts and changes depending on their environment. This creates a more creative and dynamic working environment. For example, a developer will no longer solely be expected to fulfil a traditional developers’ role. He/she will work closely with other team members in different departments. This encourages collaboration and knowledge/skills-sharing.

This can be achieved by implementing and overseeing project-orientated groups, that will combine their different expertise and allow different teams to work together towards a shared goal. This is especially effective in small and growing businesses, when everyone must be able to “wear many hats.” It will build a strong foundation and ensure everyone is competent in all the main business practices of your organisation – as well as their specialised field.

Reverse mentoring:

This is an initiative in which workers of varying age, experience and seniority will mentor each other to bridge knowledge gaps. This is effective when younger workers partner with older people to coach them around social media, technology and current trends. Or, older employees teach their younger colleagues about industry practices and business terminology.

By pairing less experienced workers with senior members of staff you will be providing them with invaluable experience. This is a great opportunity to empower your future leaders and let them build key relationships with senior executives. This is a two-way street as the senior member of staff will benefit from this experience also by learning new skills and working practices that are commonplace for the new generation of workers.

Online and e-learning:

Many businesses are starting to favour e-Learning, as it is cheaper than regular training and less time-consuming. Typically, you will have to pay for a trainer or take a member of staff out of their normal duties which will cost time. You may also have to pay for travel costs, room hire and refreshments.

By adopting e-Learning you will avoid these costs and benefit from 24-hour accessible training. This ensures your people can work at a time and pace that suits them best. This is also beneficial for people who work in different time zones or remotely, as it allows them to log in outside of your own working (and waking) hours.

Reinforce skills:

Learning a new skill involves making it into a habit. The problem is that if you want to develop a habit you must eliminate existing habits. This is very difficult. How can you do this? By regularly training your people and checking in with them to gauge progress and provide additional coaching. This is the only way you can reinforce new skills and replace existing habits.

Continuously measure progress:

If you want assurances that your people will integrate their new skills into their work, you should measure the results of the use of that skill. For example, if you’re training people on account management, you should measure the customer satisfaction scores during this period in isolation. Rather than measuring over a longer period of time as an average.

To fully maximise your training initiatives, you should get feedback after every session. This will provide you with data-led insights into what you should stop, start, change and continue doing – thus ensuring the next session is more impactful. An effective way to do this is to deliver tailored pulse surveys that ask key questions that can be actioned easily.

Final thoughts

The benefits of improving your worker’s employability are clear. However, training should not be viewed as a one-off process, but as an ongoing and regular necessity. This will ensure you fill any skill gaps and boost retention rates.

Ultimately if you invest in your people, they will invest in you. This will be reflected in productivity, retention rates and performance.