Certainly that danger is exists, but compared to the cost of attracting and retaining highly skilled staff it is a small price to pay. Employees, who see you investing in their future, are more highly motivated and often have a greater sense of loyalty and reciprocate investment in your company. It is one of the main reasons we decided to develop an apprentice scheme, initially focused on supporting undergraduates through their higher education course. We operate in a highly competitive industry, where it is very difficult to compete with the major players in terms of opportunities and rewards. It is critical for us to invest in our staff and build them up from an early stage. We accept that at some point some will be poached by bigger companies, but there will also be some who go on to become our customers. It is never simple to build a cost-benefit analysis of such a return, but even one six figure contract has the potential to reward our investment in training. It sometimes feels were in danger of fulfilling the prophecy that were simply a nation of shopkeepers. It does require imagination to get beyond the excuses about the cost of training our future workforce. The level of investment a company makes can be tailored to resources available and budgets available, but importantly it should not be seen as a one-off exercise. A new joiner should not just be seen as an individual contributor, for example an apprentice wielder. While this might be a highly valuable contribution to the business it may not be the limit of that individuals potential. Indeed providing such training may actually inspire greater long-term commitment and a future generation of middle managers with the passion for a companys vision. If staff know the Managing Director is prepared to invest on-going in their development as their aspirations evolve, Im sure, it will produce a very positive response. Loyalty The value of the loyalty and engagement is hard to quantify in terms an accountant will easily understand, but the benefit to your customers, and ultimately your business, will be immeasurable. If, as the Government suggests, productivity is the biggest priority for the UK economy in the next five years then every business has to make more of a concerted effort to train the next generation of middle managers. If we are to compete globally and push productivity we have to have a well trained workforce now and in the future. Especially as the economy is turning we have less and less of an excuse to make this commitment to our employees. The key is to appreciate that every initial investment made has the potential to develop an employee, not just an individual contributor, but a potential leader whose commitment will a positive example for other employees and valued by customers. With such industry-wide focus we will avoid future shortages in key positions and possibly even learn to look at the importance of middle managers through a different lens. Roger Thorpe is chairman of CCE.
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