Why should executives prioritize workforce training?

The Conference Board CEO Challenge 2014 report, among other recent surveys, revealed that this year, corporate leadership will be placing a high priority on human capital – defined by The Conference Board as “how best to develop, engage, manage and retain talent.

The report collated the responses of more than 1,000 surveyed CEOs, presidents and chairmen from across the globe who were asked to name and rank the challenges they came up against in their positions. Leaders in Europe and Asia named human capital as their No. 1 problem, while their counterparts in North America and Latin America ranked it as the second most important issue they faced.

Training plays key part in human capital management

In a 2013 piece for BusinessNewsDaily’s Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights, Jason Silberman, Marketing Director at WalkMe, underscored the importance of training with regard to bolstering employee performance, increasing worker engagement levels, reducing turnover and enhancing overall morale across an organization.

“A quality training strategy boosts employee morale and motivates them in their daily activities,” Silberman wrote. “Training also stimulates competitiveness, and in its absence only a modest professional development may ‘preserve.’ In addition, training programs help retain valuable human capital that will not make them feel the need for a ‘change’ to develop professionally.”

Moreover, he continued, investing in training today increases quality and efficiency within the organization tomorrow, not to mention for weeks, months and even years to come. But despite all the benefits they have to offer, employee development and training programs are often among the first initiatives to fall by the wayside when members of the C-suite decide it’s time to tighten their corporate belts or a new leader comes into the picture and wants to make his or her mark on the organization by shaking things up and reassigning portions of the budget.

“Part of the reason I believe that companies have an itchy trigger finger when deciding to target training programs is that the upper management often fails to see the directly practical value in it,” opined Silberman.

Optimizing training initiatives for maximum gains

Of course, ineffective employee education programs tend to generate few – if any – positive effects for companies. In these situations, it is understandable why executives might want to reduce funding for training initiatives or scrap them altogether, but these courses of action aren’t the solution. Rather, senior management should take the time to look at what’s working and what isn’t, and optimize their efforts in line with their findings.

“It is not sufficient for a company to request training offers and course selections which might ‘seem’ interesting at some point or another,” Silberman warned. “Training can produce the aimed results only if strategic thinking and quality time are invested into its creation.”

With this in mind, Silberman presented a quartet of tips for firms eager to refine their corporate training offerings:

1) Be clear about what an initiative will entail and what is expected of the employees taking part in it. “Even before the training begins, knowing the overall objectives for everyone involved is the only way to ensure success,” Silberman wrote.

2) Select a trainer who is creative, experienced, open-minded and well-prepared. However dynamic the syllabus itself, it will fall flat if delivered in a lackluster fashion. Similarly, even the most dry topics can be brought to life and made memorable with the right educator at the helm.

3) Assimilate training into the ongoing company culture, rather than framing educational efforts as having a definitive beginning and end. Even the most tenured professionals always have more to learn, so establishing employee development as an ever-present part of life at the organization is a must. The more acclimated that members of staff become to regular or continuous training, the less opposition there will be among the workforce.

4) Adhere to the “What’s in it for me?” mentality when crafting curricula. Employees may begin to tune out if educational sessions are filled with material that doesn’t pertain to their daily work lives. “A learner will be more attentive if he knows that the course delivers him information that can be used immediately,” noted Silberman.

Provided they are able to roll out effective training programs that provide employees with relevant information in an interesting manner, executives will likely see significant returns as a result of their efforts. Educational initiatives often boost workers’ loyalty to their employers, translating to higher engagement and retention. Staff with enhanced skill sets also often have a knock-on positive effect on customers to boot – a fact that becomes particularly relevant given that customer relationships were named as the second most pressing challenge by the executives who took part in The Conference Board CEO Challenge 2014.

About Caldwell Partners

Caldwell Partners is a leading international provider of executive search and has been for more than 40 years. As one of the world’s most trusted advisors in executive search, the firm has a sterling reputation built on successful searches for boards, chief and senior executives, and selected functional experts. With offices and partners across North America and in London, the firm takes pride in delivering an unmatched level of service and expertise to its clients.

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