Investing in skills development: a win-win situation
Article revised on 12 May 2020
For many employers, the development of skills is an expense the impact of which may be unclear. In Quebec, firms of a certain size are required by law to invest at least 1% of their payroll into training initiatives. Some would undoubtedly prefer to use the funds for other expenses. Yet, the experts all agree that everyone stands to gain from staff development.
Most employers acknowledge that developing the skills of their employees is more than an asset to their organization: It’s a condition for growth. Why? Because employees who are more well trained are more apt to be productive and efficient. Beyond purely financial matters, an increase in skills also impacts various aspects of a company’s day-to-day operations. The side benefits include:
- The capacity for innovation and the emergence of new ideas:Many studies have demonstrated that Canadian businesses see their productivity increase in the three-year period after investing in skills upgrading for their staff. Employees who are more well trained are more likely to propose new approaches, take the initiative and carry out special projects.
- Employee loyalty: Moving up in the company, getting promotions, working on a variety of projects, being entrusted with supervisory tasks… Numerous factors can spur an employee on to get more training. A company that invests in its employees sends them a strong message: It trusts them, is counting on them and is standing behind them as they move forward on their career path. It’s a great sign of recognition and a good way to relight the spark!
- Better ways of achieving strategic objectives:Organizations must be able to adapt their practices and ways of doing things based on ever-changing situations in their internal and external environments. Training still is one of the most effective ways of keeping up with the imposed pace. Employees who receive ongoing training are up on the latest developments and the most recent advancements in their area of business.
- Easier staff recruitment:The opportunities for training and the importance that an employer attributes to the development of its workers contribute to a strengthening of the employer’s brand and, as a result, help organizations distinguish themselves in the eyes of the most talented candidates.
An expense or an investment?
Of course, investing in the development of skills often involves a certain loosening of the purse strings! While some low-cost solutions exist, for certain positions, it is necessary to obtain outside help through training centres, trainers, educational institutions, etc. That said, some businesses fear that, after they have invested in individual employees and developed their skills, an employee might leave, thus allowing their investment to benefit a competitor.
But look at it from another perspective: An organization may choose not to invest in employee training. The employees may well decide to stay, but the organization would not have an opportunity to benefit from the upgraded skills, new ideas and innovation that accompany the acquisition of new knowledge or the assimilation of new ways of doing things. The result? Competitors who have invested in skills upgrading for their staff members quickly race ahead, in a variety of ways.
How to foster the development of skills
Paying the tuition for training offered by different firms or organizing in-house training are good ways of encouraging staff to upgrade their skills. There are also other ways of stimulating learning. Here are a few examples:
- Encouraging job rotation, which can break the routine, stimulate employees and enable them to become familiar with various aspects of the company’s activities
- Establishing a coaching or mentoring system, thereby killing two birds with one stone: fostering learning and encouraging a younger employee to move forward, thus enabling a more seasoned employee to gradually pass the torch
- Implement co-development initiativesin which your employees can discuss best practices and learn from each other.
Conditions for success
Certain success factors are key to ensuring that efforts to upgrade the skills of employees actually are effective.
- Professional development must be among the organization’s priorities.
- Staff training and development activities must be planned in keeping with the organization’s strategic objectives. As well, the workforce development plan must take the organization’s internal and external environments into account.
- Employees should also be able to make known their expectations with regard to their own career path, so communication is important.
- Knowledge, methods and know-how obtained through training – whatever its form – should be quickly applied by employees, thus enabling them to assimilate it and integrate it into their day-to-day activities.
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