Training — More Than Paying Lip Service to Your Greatest Asset

Learn and lead through trainingRecently Zane Safrit wrote about your company’s greatest asset — your employees.

I’d like to follow Zane’s lead by discussing training. Training is a key element to high morale and productivity. It’s one way to grow and develop “your greatest asset” and do more than pay lip service to it.

I took a look around to find a few resources to help you with training, and this is what I found:

Topher Liddle has written an article on developing a Guide for an Employee Orientation strategy that begins with the interview. First impressions are critical whether they are with new customers to your business or new employees for your organization. Securing and retaining good employees is critical for your ongoing success. Topher says:

Employees today wish to feel valued, not just another cog in the machine, making it important to fit your organization to the employees needs, as opposed to the employee fitting the organizations needs.

Starting off their experience with an orientation training program helps set the tone right from the start.

Once you’ve hired a new candidate, ongoing training is an important part of providing development opportunities and also shows you believe your employees to be your company’s greatest asset.

Matt Alderton has written an article entitled Training Your Employees that I like because he shares resources for training from a variety of perspectives — verbal, online, video — all touching on the different ways people learn. Matt says:

Think of training as an investment, not an expense; you may have to spend money to educate employees, but your business will benefit from having happier, smarter and more productive workers.

When it is time to fill a leadership role, promoting from within sends the message to all your employees that they are valuable to the overall organization’s success and someday they too might be considered for advancement.

Rob May published an article on BusinessPundit where he shared the thoughts of Procter and Gamble’s CEO Lafley on promoting from within:

Somewhere out in the global sprawl of 160 countries where Proctor & Gamble sells its products is a 35-year-old manager who, one day, will be CEO. And the company’s current chief executive, A.G. Lafley, sitting at headquarters back in Cincinnati, is watching, focusing his attention far and wide on those bright upstarts.

Imagine being a manager for one of the largest companies in the world and realizing that someday you could be the company’s leader. Rob calls leadership development a competitive advantage.

Whether you have 2 or 200 employees, training should be an ongoing part of your organizational plan.

Even if you are a sole proprietor you need to take the time for continuing education so you can stay one step ahead of the competition. Most colleges and universities offer business topics in their continuing education program. In fact, it was through a continuing education class that I first met Anita Campbell!

What role does training play in your company; for your employees and for you? Do you have a regular plan? Do you allow employees to come to you with the information about a seminar they feel will help them in their role? Do you occasionally bring in a trainer to provide additional learning opportunities?


10 Reactions
  1. Martin Lindeskog

    Deborah Brown,

    Companies working according to an ISO standard, has to have a continuing eduction and training program in place. As a purchaser, I went to courses arranged by the Swedish National Association of Purchasing and Logistics (Silf Competence).

    I have recently enrolled with an online learning company called Success Learning Systems, Inc. (a.k.a Success University). I will set up my goals, attend courses and work on my personal development. My specialization in college was Organizational Leadership (Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, a 3 year integrated program).

    I am a student of Ayn Rand’s philosophy, Objectivism, and I am a fan of Aristotle’s teaching technique at the school of Athens, Lyceum.

    I will get a personal coach sometime in the future. I am interested in getting a business mentor. I will get more involved in Toastmasters. I recently did my first prepared public speech at Toastmasters, the icebreaker.

    Best Premises,

    Martin Lindeskog – American in Spirit.
    Gothenburg, Sweden.

  2. In my previous position, I found that training not only began upon entrance in the organization, but even as interested parties looked in from the outside. You see, I worked at a charter high school in Minnesota – where school choice is a way of life. My job was to recruit new students. It became apparent that I could set the context and build expectations for all the amazing things these students would learn well before they actually enrolled.

    The tour for example, allowed time to see the facility and get a hands on feel for what was to be offered. Expectations were set, and ideas were planted in their minds. Through newsletters, website, and other forms of communication with prospective students, even more context and excitement was built around what was to come as they enter high school.

    Finally, as the day arrives to begin actually taking classes, their minds were prepared to dive in and start learning. As a result training these young minds was in many cases easier! I hope to produce the same expectations in the new company I just launched.

  3. Thanks to both of your for your great comments. Martin – best of luck with your plans. I am a CTM in Toastmasters and it has been a wonderful experience. I also have a business mentor and she provides fabulous feedback and is a great sounding board for ideas and situations that I would otherwise have to figure out alone.

    Mark, best of luck with your new company. Your approach sounds fantastic and you are surely well on your way to creating an environment in which people will want to work.


  4. I’ve been thinking about taking a business course over at the local community college, and this was a good kick in the bottom to look into it. Thanks!

  5. Great comments on training. Some thoughts on face-to-face training.

    After 14 years of conducting seminars on 5 continents I have found that often the most valuable benefits of training are intangible. As important as the content is the group dynamic and the interaction with others and speaker make the content relevant.

    It is encouraging to read about the coaching and the classes,

    Terry Christopherson
    The Complete Professional

  6. Proper training is extremely important. I think one person in your company should be designated as the employee trainer. At my last job, the new employee was just bounced from person to person, whoever had free time. I think that’s a huge mistake. Each person giving different instructions is confusing and nonproductive. They also would just go over the basics and assume that the person would catch on after only a few days. It should be an on going process over the length of at least a month depending on how they adjust. Having the “sink or swim” attitude doesn’t do anyone any good.

  7. I work at a nonprofit that specializes in helping small firms create better work environments, Winning Workplaces. Each year we partner with The Wall Street Journal to identify 15 “Top Small Workplaces” (in fact, yesterday we hosted our panel of judges at our headquarters to choose the 15 winners for 2008 among 35 finalists (from a pool of 407 applicants).

    You mention a penchant for enlightened firms to promote from within. That’s a big theme we saw among last year’s winners that continues this year. Along with that, we’re seeing that within an open and trusting environment, many of these companies provide training to their employees with the understanding, and encouragement in the event, that they could go elsewhere. In short, these firms want to produce quality employees, wherever they end up being happy. I think that’s really an advanced view, and a far cry from the old style of closed leadership. One irony is that the firms we saw with the greatest focus towards this actually saw some of the lowest turnover.

    You’re also right that training should be an ongoing part of the organizational plan. In studying our 2007 Top Small Workplaces (last year, 437 companies applied), we found that for 1st-year employees, the 15 winners provided an average of 144 hrs. of training (93 hrs. for all applicants). For employees in 2nd and later years, the winners provided 100 hrs. (46 hrs. for all applicants). There was actually one winning firm that provided an astonishing 720 hours for both 1st and subsequent-year employees!

    The moral here is that a systematic (tied w/ company mission and values), long-term focus on training has been shown to help when it comes to a variety of metrics, including retention, productivity, and innovation. For small companies in the current economic climate, this can mean the difference between closing up shop and keeping the doors open.

    So you can’t have too many posts on training! Thanks for the round-up of research, Deborah.

  8. Thanks Deborah for the great commentary and insights regarding this mindset and the opportunities and rewards for providing internal training within companies. Superior companies, regardless of their size, recognize the need to keep ahead of emerging and rapidly changing technologies in almost every field. Their very existence is so dependent on it. They need training programs to develop and encourage their people in each functional area of their firm. Certainly, “the cream will rise to the top” revealing future leaders within their firm and industry.

    Training (education) is a critically important investment that returns huge dividends. It simply cannot be viewed as an expense. Companies need to invest in their employees, providing exciting and motivating opportunities for them, continuing to offer additional developmental tools and incentives to retain their most valuable asset. After all, it is quite expensive to train employees only to see them later leave for a competitor who will possibly better recognize their skills and compensate them accordingly. Training must go hand-in-hand with incentive and reward.

    Companies alone cannot successfully enage in this process if their employees are not onboard. Company leadership must inspire and encourage the habit of life-long learning as a means for their employees to maximize their contribution to the firm, make themselves more valuable in their industry and to always be employable, regardless of the current state of the economy. Employees must be inspired to take personal responsibility for learning. Their need for continuous learning must be viewed as inseparable from their prosperity.

    Every company will need the contribution of their most talented people when the economic storms arrive. Those inspired by effective leadership and prepared by continuous training will always personally prosper and prosper the firms for whom they work.

  9. Lots of great comments. I love when a topic hits a cord with readers. Mark, the stats you provided for the number of hours winning employers provide their associates is astonishing. Seems like there is a no-brainer connection between training and productivity/morale/retention/results/success.

    All good stuff. Thanks to everyone for sharing.


  10. Deborah,

    Thank you for the mention. I’m flattered it may have served as a stepping-stone to this excellent post with lots of great resources, including the comments. That’s what I love about this community: so many great resources and so many great people.