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Train to Hire and Develop

Recently, while listening to a news report, I heard some disturbing news regarding the amount of money businesses, as a whole, were spending on training. Unfortunately, according to the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD), this trend started long before our recent recession. At the same time, many jobs are going unfilled because companies are saying they cannot find well-trained candidates for their open positions. It's my contention that part of the problem many businesses face getting and keeping good people is attributable to them not helping their community's educational institutions develop programs that teach the skills people need to help the businesses. The other part of the problem is because we as business people miss the opportunity to invest enough dollars in continuing to help our employees increase their skills once they are on the job.  

What does the data indicate? ASTD has been tracking training budgets and expenditures for many years. From 1986 through 2008, using inflation-adjusted dollars, the amount spent by companies on training during that span of 22 years only increased by 1.5%. However, in those years, the number of workers grew by 38% indicating that companies had not kept pace with the increase in employees. Also, think about how technology changed during that span of time. In 1986, we were ten years way from the Internet and technology had not yet transformed our culture, and especially manufacturing, as we now know it has looking back. Recently, ASTD noted that spending dropped during 2009 and has remained flat through 2011. This has affected all groups of employees from production workers, customer service folks and office workers to sales reps, professionals, managers and executives. The problem, as I see it, is that by reducing training or cutting it out altogether during tough economic times, we are not preparing our companies and our employees to face the upcoming changes. When the economic problems dissipate they will be replaced with the challenges of how to keep up with increased demands. It will happen as we know, and we may be caught flat-footed with an ill-equipped work force having to compete locally, regionally and internationally. This is a dismal picture if current employees and candidates for our jobs continue to get less-than-sufficient formal education as well as the necessary on-the-job training that they need to keep up with the demands of the jobs entrusted to them.

Why is training important? First of all, people don't usually come to us ready to do a job. And, even if they are well-trained, they still need to understand how jobs are performed in our companies. They learn that through coaching, mentoring and training on the job. Let's also think about what we need to be a good performer in any job. My approach is to think in simple, all-encompassing categories. In any job, we need:

Knowledge. This is formal education and training as well as experiences we have gained from others and situations that could not be taught during formal classes.

Skills. Just having knowledge about something doesn't make us good employees. We have to have the skills to apply that knowledge. I can read about how to perform a surgical operation, answer a lot of questions and even pass a written or verbal test. But, would you let me operate on you if I hadn't developed the skills to operate?  I think not.

Behavior. While we must have knowledge and skills, how we act while doing our jobs is equally important. We need training, experiences and guidance to know how to interact with co-workers and customers. Companies also depend on us to communicate well and be able to work well in teams. How we do our jobs is as important as what we do.

How to improve training and development for your business


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