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Training key to retaining staff

Retaining staff is becoming harder as a result of the skills shortage. Gavin Dixon, CEO of Reckon Limited’s Business Division, offers his suggestions on how staff training and evaluation are a must for retaining staff, and keeping them happy, motivated and performing at their best.

Staff turnover is expected to cost Australian businesses more than $100 billion this year, according to recent research by Unisys. If that’s not enough to convince business owners to take a greater interest in staff retention, perhaps these Australian Bureau of Statistics numbers will:
1.2 million—the number of people who changed jobs in the year to February 2006.
Four years—the average length of employment today, compared with 12 years in 1960.
4.3 percent—the current unemployment rate; the lowest in more than three decades.

Employees are more mobile and motivated than ever which means employers need to work overtime to attract, satisfy and retain employees while labouring to run a profitable business.
Establishing a work-life balance is in vogue but it usually involves more than giving employees more money, flexible work hours or time off to keep them around, particularly for small businesses.
Business owners intent on trimming turnover should not underestimate the value of training and performance evaluation. An educated workforce that actively seeks additional skill development opportunities is a key element in strengthening, and stimulating, employees.
The success of any training program largely depends on how it is implemented. For example, expert trainers can conduct ongoing training. But with costs of up to $4,000 a day, trainers might only be of value if a large portion of employees can participate. The other dilemma for SMEs is coping with employees taking the time out from their day-to-day responsibilities to undertake training.
An increasingly popular alternative, particularly with Generation Y and those in technical positions, online training can take as little as two hours a day, a few days a week and can come with a price tag equal to the cost of attending a day-long off-site training course. It is also attractive because employees can participate in the course at their own speed, at a convenient time, and the material is generally appropriate for others.
While training plays a vital role, an effective staff evaluation process is just as significant in developing and satisfying employees.
In most workplaces, six-month and yearly reviews function as standard employee evaluations. These are often a collaboration of manager and employee opinions and typically include a written and oral assessment, but in many cases they merely scratch the surface.
More thorough employee assessment programs not only provide a better insight into an employee’s ability, performance and motivation but also serve as an excellent way to improve employee satisfaction.
A recent revised employee evaluation conducted at Reckon consisted of a 360-degree feedback evaluation and the manager’s feedback, which included the opinions of co-workers the respective employee interacted with on a regular basis.
The company-wide appraisal consisted of the standard job performance, measured against key performance indicators (KPIs), and also took into account the feedback of anonymous co-workers who would not normally play a role in the evaluation process. In response to the performance feedback a training plan was included as a KPI and a mid-year review will also be conducted.
Participants were provided with instructions via a training session, which included feedback. Questions based on Reckon’s core competencies were framed in a positive manner to encourage constructive comments.
Most employees value feedback on their contribution and areas for improvement, which makes the evaluation program useful as a development tool, not a disciplinary one.
Aspects of such a program can be adapted to any business, regardless of its size.
Rather than requesting feedback only from your employees, ask your closest customers, suppliers and even outside contractors for their opinions; this has the added benefit of making them feel a part of your organisation.
The bottom line is employees will see that management, co-workers and other stakeholders are taking an interest in what they do each day. This type of employee engagement establishes a sense of belonging, pride and being an important part of the company culture and encourages employees to go the extra mile.
Ultimately, this translates into employees enjoying their work, boosting their production and increasing the chances they will not soon be another addition to the growing number of Australians changing jobs each year.

-Gavin Dixon is the CEO of Reckon Limited’s Business Division (www.reckon.com.au). Reckon is the supplier of QuickBooks accounting software.