Let’s face it, we all want to gain the best possible value from our budgets but there are always some areas where deciding how much to spend and how to spend it cost-effectively causes uncertainty and hesitation. Training is one such area – but in the long-run businesses could stand to face a downward spiral in customer retention and staff satisfaction if the most isn’t made from the training budget.
“The key is to see training from a continuing professional development viewpoint,” according to learning and development expert David Thorp, who further suggested that training should never be deemed to be a mere add-on or distraction from work. And the concept that training will strain any corporate budget, he claimed, is largely false. It all comes back to which option you decide to go with.
While a residential training course may lose you quite a few pounds, employers could consider enrolling employees on online courses. “By mixing these two options you can get the most from your investment,” said Thorp. “There are many low-cost e-models, and many professional bodies have bite-sized, 15- or 20-minute courses – that may not sound much, but in fact you can learn a lot from 15 minutes of intensive training tailored to the subject you’re trying to learn more about.”
If you’re still not convinced that you should be placing investment in training, then Paul Stevenson, owner of advertising agency Wall to Wall Sunshine, urges businesses to “think about what the company will look like in ten years’ time if you don’t train anybody, compared to what it would look like if everyone kept their training up to speed. It’s a rare business owner that will respond: ‘The one where I don’t train will be better’.”
You could also always find out whether the spend is justified through an appraisal system.”
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“If you have a formalised record showing clear progress, it becomes much easier to prove the value of training to the business over time,” said Thorp. Nor is training simply about days out from the office: “Mentoring – either in your own company or with an external one – can be an extremely powerful way to learn.”
Either way, training should be on the minds of every SME leader, Stevenson said. “Training significantly improves your market competitiveness,” he added. “If you want to beat your competition and don’t want to be reduced to competing on price, you have to be better. Nowadays there’s hardly a product that isn’t really a service. Whether or not you go back to a company is largely dependent on service – everything is delivered by people, and humans make the difference. Training is key to that.”
He also urged bosses to keep in mind that training was a lot like going to the gym: “You won’t see instant improvements after one workout. But if you’re consistently working at it, you will improve.”
However, when you finally hop onboard the training bandwagon, it becomes very easy to drift and not spend your training budget each year. This is why, Stevenson claimed, businesses needed to develop the art of spending the right amount. On the flip side, “you could argue that within reason, the more you spend, the better things get. When you look at retention and churn rates, there’s a positive correlation with training.”
This was echoed by Fi McDonald, a trainer and practice assessor: “When a company is suffering from lean times, don’t pull up the drawbridge because that can only lead in one direction. If you cut your training budget, you’re helping send the company in a downward spiral and you will communicate that insecurity to your staff. This means your best people are more likely to move on. The company that invests in training in good times stays ahead of the competition. The firm that invests in bad times is faster off the blocks when recovery comes back.”
Ultimately, if you put the resources in, the company gets better – not just the individuals’ own performances. “But when things need improving, many companies redo the fleet or phone system,” Stevenson claimed. “I think that’s a mistake. Spend it on your people. Make sure they’re strong and well armed. Some things aren’t business-critical; your people and your training most certainly are.”
There is no point in engaging in training for training’s sake. Here are five ways to guarantee you will maximise your investment in training.
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