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Beating the brain drain – Employee Training

Two misconceptions about employee training need to be dispelled: ongoing employee training and development is essential not optional, and training is an investment for a business not an expense, writes Charisse Gray.

It is understandable that if an employer takes employees off the floor for training, they must be confident that the business will reap long-term benefits. But the employer should also be aware of potential losses, in employees and productivity, if they ignore training.

Why is training considered essential? Why do successful businesses have an ongoing training philosophy firmly embedded in their organisation’s culture?

In today’s fast business environment with international reach, continual learning and staff development is critical to your business’s continued success. If staff aren’t keeping up with constant change and learning new things, the business is going to fall behind. Employees are the ones that produce, refine, protect, deliver, sell and manage a business’s products or services every day.

The benefits of ongoing staff training are far-reaching. Employees are integral to achieving business objectives and raising performance. To do their jobs efficiently and effectively staff need up-to-date skills and best-practice methods.

Training ensures that people, from the top to the bottom of the organisation, are equipped to reach their full potential, and that there’s a strong reservoir of talent to continue to grow the business.

Effective training leads to improved staff performance from skilled and motivated staff who know and understand their responsibilities and are keen to develop their abilities further. Training should also foster stronger commitment and loyalty from employees who appreciate the time, money and effort a business has invested in their development.

Ongoing staff training ensures a business survives, stays on track and stands out from the rest, and this has never been more critical than it is today. Employers are increasingly being challenged to attract and retain good staff against a backdrop of severe skills shortages, competition, and a complex, fast-paced business world of regulation, red tape and compliance issues.

So, we know why it’s important, but what does it take for training to be worthwhile?

For training to be successful it must start with a commitment from the employer and recognition of the benefits it brings the business, and these attitudes must cascade down through all levels of management and the business. Training must have both responsibility and accountability built into its structure; managers and employees must accept that training is required, implemented, monitored and assessed.

Training doesn’t stop after induction/orientation training. It’s easy to think of staff only in their current situations and positions. It’s more difficult to try to foresee the future needs for these people. Yet existing employees need to acquire new skills and knowledge for any number of reasons. Today, businesses must create, foster and support a learning culture. Business owners, leaders and senior management, need to display strong leadership skills and consistently demonstrate an impressive array of management and technical skills and abilities unknown a generation ago. Innovative practices—imperative strategies for the future for SMEs—require new ways of thinking and new skills, and these competencies require training.

All training should be focused on producing a targeted result for the business. A business needs to determine what to expect in return, that is specific business outcomes.

Identifying measurable results, or the return on your investment (ROI), will ensure that training is not viewed as an expense. Training needs analysis. Identifying what type of training is required, is a good place to start.


Training Resources

What kind of training provider should a business choose? Kathy Bracken, senior human resources officer for ABL State Chamber explains: “The variety of options available is vast. Internal training is great if a business has the resources, but it should be mindful to not become too inwardly focused. External consultants will tailor courses specific to one’s needs and can deliver on site which is great should a business have several staff members that need the same training.

“Training companies generalise their course structure to cater for the wider market offering their product range of one to two-day courses every few weeks which is good should an organisation need to get a staff member on a course rather urgently.

“For those who want the learning reinforced over a longer spread of time, TAFE is a good option. Courses generally run a couple of nights per week over a 12-week period and will give users a nationally recognised qualification. Your local Community Colleges also have a similar set-up, but generally their courses are not accredited.”

Online learning is a newer player in the market, and staff can choose the time and place of their learning and can go back and forth to it as they please. This seems to be a popular option for younger staff. Bracken advises that using a Registered Training Organisation (RTO) will give a business and its staff the assurance of†accredited training that is†nationally recognised and can be used towards further education. And, she suggests, if you are looking for high level, structured and disciplined learning over a period of three to six years in very specific areas or industries, university is always a good option, if you have time.

A useful starting point for any business, in particular SMEs, are the services offered by state governments to assist employers to identify and develop the skills they require.

Online courses cover skills needed when a person starts a business, puts together a business plan, researches the market, and learns the basics of selling. Seminars and workshops address common business topics.

Marketing officer for the Queensland Department of State Development, Trade and Innovation, Chaleeya Supunyachotsakul, believes the fast pace of business today requires business owners to keep up to date with changing practices. “Gaining a comparative advantage and increasing business performance means continually acquiring skills in financial management, people management, the application of appropriate systems, and so on.

“Our organisation provides business information and packages including diagnostic tools for business owners to conduct regular health checks on the business, as well as compare average performances with businesses in the same industry,” she says.

If you are new to the training sector visit www.training.com.au and familiarise yourself with all things related to vocational education and training.

For more experienced training sector users, the National Training Information Service (NTIS) www.ntis.gov.au provides a database on vocational education and training in Australia. NTIS is the official national register of information on courses, qualifications, training packages, units of competency and registered training organisations.

Employer groups such as ABL State Chamber, the Australian Industry Group, and state and regional business chambers provide a range of products and services, events, publications and online facilities to assist business owners.


Apprentice Program

Building society Newcastle Permanent takes staff training very seriously. “Newcastle Permanent’s philosophy is one where all staff, new or existing, are given the opportunity to pursue a career path as opposed to simply a job,” says ABL’s Apprenticeships Centre field consultant, Jane Browne. “Training is highly structured so that individuals gain nationally recognised qualifications and skills that are highly prized in the finance industry.”

Working closely with an external organisation such as the ABL Apprenticeships Centre has made the tailor-made programs feasible and more cost effective overall, says Newcastle Permanent’s CEO, Fraser Rea
d-Smith. “All new staff have been placed in this intensive and highly successful 12-month program and participants are thrilled that they have a qualification that enables them to advance their careers in the industry.

“The response to these programs has been overwhelming. From an organisation’s perspective, it reinforces the importance of our staff to the company’s overall vision and objectives.”

Compared with the rest of the industry, the organisation has low staff attrition and is considered a regional employer of choice, which Fraser says “is a testament to our training regime”.

Traineeships and apprenticeships offer a combination of work and structured training, which results in a nationally recognised qualification. For a business, signing a staff member to a traineeship can offer them monetary incentives from the government. This is dependant on a number of factors and should be checked with your Apprenticeships Centre before signing any paperwork.

Employees are your primary business asset. And when you invest in them thoughtfully and strategically, you’ll reap rewards that pay off now and for years to come.  


Benefits of Employee Training

Training is crucial to:

•    providing job enrichment by enabling employees to grow their skills and knowledge;

•    increasing employee morale, confidence and job satisfaction;

•    empowering staff to tackle new situations confidently;

•    improving loyalty resulting in reduced staff turnover;

•    improving productivity;

•    improving workplace health and safety;

•    enabling clear, measurable results in job performance;

•    bringing improved and innovative ideas into the workplace;

•    enabling the implementation of new policies or strategies;

•    addressing technological, legislative or economic changes; and

•    addressing restructuring or business changes.


Training needs analysis

Seven steps to identify your training needs:

1.    Analyse the skills and knowledge required by your business to succeed. Consider both current and future training needs.

2.    Compare these to the skills and experience available. This will provide an understanding of existing strengths and weaknesses.

3.    Consider if there are particular underlying knowledge and skills required to do particular jobs.

4.    Determine if there are existing business or industry competency standards.

5.    Identify any gap of knowledge and available skills.

6.    Prioritise the gaps in knowledge and skills.

7.    Identify any barriers that may exist in the workplace that may affect the outcomes of training.

* Charisse Gray is senior business writer for ABL State Chamber.

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