StrategyDriven Talent Management Article

Why Employee Training Is A Wise Investment For Your Business

Businesses can only thrive when they benefit from regular and targeted investment. There will be many areas of potential investment including physical infrastructure, consumables and professional services that all compete for a limited budget. Whilst employee recruitment is usually viewed as a legitimate area for investment, employee training has traditionally been overlooked and often comes at the bottom of spending priorities.

This is a mistake but there is more bad news. When business owners are looking to make savings in their outgoings, employee training is usually the first budget to be slashed because it is an easy target. This short-term view is not what is best for your business going forward and could be highly damaging. There are many compelling reasons why you should target your investment at employee training.

This may require a shift in attitude. You need to start viewing employee training as a way to make you more money rather than a waste of money. It is a long-term investment that will pay you great dividends in the future.

Why you need to take employee training seriously

Your employees are one of your greatest assets. You have made a lot of effort to recruit the right people for the job. The recruitment process is costly in both time and money. If you do not look after the employees that you have recruited then this has been a waste of time and resources.

If your business is to thrive, it is essential that you manage your workforce effectively. This is a lot more than ensuring that they turn up on time and that they stay as long as they are meant to. You need to make sure that you are making the most of them whilst they are at work. An experienced and well-trained employee could be your greatest business asset.

Human resources management is all about striking a balance between encouragement, rewards, and sanctions. It is also about developing each employee as an individual and nurturing them so that they can feel fulfilled and make the best contribution to your enterprise. On-going training is a vital element of this. It is viewed by employees as a reward because it has benefits for them as well as your business. It renews interest in their task and keeps them engaged with your operation. They will also enjoy being viewed as an authority in a particular area. Rather than relegating it to the bottom of the pile, you should place employee training at the center of how you manage your employees.

An employee that is trained in all the latest skills and techniques and who is provided with the latest knowledge will be able to complete their job more effectively. They are also more efficient so they get the job done faster using fewer resources. This is good for your cash-flow.

Trained employees are happier and feel more highly motivated at work so productivity is increased. Business research shows that employee training correlates with increased job satisfaction and higher morale. The workplace becomes a happier and more productive place and profits increase. It also means that employees are more likely to stay in their job and your staff retention is improved. Ultimately, this saves you money.

If your employees are using outdated techniques, technology, and modalities then they could be harming your business. It is time for a change in attitude towards employee training. You are leading a team and you should want that team to be the best that it can be.

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Areas for employee training

Some employee training will need to be targeted at the specific role that they play in your organization. Training does not mean that employees need to leave the workplace to take advantage of it as there are many courses provided online these days.

If your business operates in the retail sector, you should invest in sales technique training. This will equip your sales team with the latest techniques for converting visitors into paying customers and even into repeat customers. If your business is associated with technology then you need to provide training on the latest technological developments – see programs relating to technology. Information technology skills are highly relevant to any business. Once the training is complete you could designate one employee as your IT expert. This will mean that you do not have to rely on an external organisation to provide your IT support and it could save you a huge amount of money. As an employee who is on site all the time, they will be able to spot problems before they occur and will understand how your business systems operate.

Training in cyber security is increasingly important for all of today’s businesses. Every business is a potential target for such an attack and the only way to effectively protect the business is to train employees in what they must do to prevent it.

If you operate in a specialized sector such as the provision of services to children, it makes sense to train employees in the area of child development and learning – see programs relating to early age education. You can provide your employees with courses such as Child Development, Assessment, Observation, and Intervention and Exploring the Principles of Education. Typically, the training programs focus on how to create healthy environments that encourage and stimulate children. This would provide valuable insights for your business.

Generic training for all employee

There are some areas where all employees need to be trained and health and safety training is one of these. It is an area that is often neglected but is essential in all work premises. As an employer, you have a duty to protect the health, safety, and welfare of your employees and training is a big part of that.

You cannot ask an employee to carry out a task without providing them with the appropriate training. If you do not do that, you are putting them and everyone around them at risk. Health and safety training could include any of the following:

  • Training in how to carry out a particular job. Every time you require an employee to carry out a job, you must ensure that they have been trained in how to do it safely. This includes training them in a safe system of work, how to spot hazards and what to do if something goes wrong.
  • Training in how to use equipment. When you require an employee to use a particular piece of equipment you must ensure that they are trained in how to use it safely. That includes how to use any safety features that the equipment is provided with and if there are any checks that need to be carried out before the equipment is used.
  • Training in how to use personal protective equipment. If your employees have to use some sort of personal protective equipment (such as ear defenders or breathing apparatus) they must be trained in how to use it correctly. It is not sufficient to simply provide the equipment because if it is not used properly it will not offer the protection that it has been designed to provide.
  • Training in spotting and reporting hazards. You cannot be everywhere in your business at the same time and so it is essential that every employee knows how to spot potential hazards. They are your eyes and ears throughout the organisation. They also need to know how they should report it to and how they should do that.

First aid training is useful for all employees and some workplaces are required to have a trained first aider on site. Employees with first aid training have saved thousands of lives in workplaces up and down the country. There are several different levels of first aid training ranging from simple first aid to CPR and serious incident management.

Training must be an ongoing activity

It is a mistake to view employee training as a one-off provision. It is actually something that needs to be kept under continual review. There are always new courses and new opportunities that you can take advantage of. You need to be continually assessing who needs training and what training it would be best to provide them with.

One approach that works well is to integrate an assessment of training needs into your staff appraisal so that employees are actively involved in identifying what they need. The findings could be reported back as part of an annual review so that you can work out your budget requirements.

If you are not sure of the latest training courses in your particular industry you can check these out on trade organisation websites and journals. However, don’t be afraid to think outside the box. A training course from an entirely different sector may bring the innovation that your business needs.

Finally, it is not just your employees that need training. As the business owner, you owe it to yourself to keep up to date with the latest developments. You may enjoy learning more than you thought you would!

Sharon Drew Morgen

Training vs. Learning: Do you want to train? Or have someone learn?

Training successfully educates only those who are predisposed to the new material. Others may endeavor to learn during class but may not permanently adopt it. The problem isn’t the value of information or the eagerness of the learner: It’s a problem with both the training model itself and the way learners learn. It’s a systems/change problem.

How We Learn

We all operate out of unique, internal systems comprised of mental models (rules, beliefs, history etc.) that form the foundation of who we are and determine our choices, behaviors and habits. Our behaviors are the vehicles that represent these internal systems – our beliefs in action, if you will. So as a Buddhist I wouldn’t learn to shoot a gun, but if someone were to try to kill my family I’d shift the hierarchy of my beliefs to put ‘family’ above ‘Buddhist’ and ‘shooting a gun’ might be within the realm of possibility.

Because anything new is a threat to our habitual and carefully (unconsciously) organized internal system (part of our limbic brain), we instinctively defend ourselves against anything ‘foreign’ that might seek to enter. For real change (like learning something new) to occur, our system must buy-in to the new or it will be automatically resisted. It similarly effects selling/buying, coaching/clients, doctors/patients, leaders/followers.

A training program potentially generates obstacles, such as when

  • learners are happy with their habitual behaviors and don’t seek anything new,
  • fear they might lose their historic competency,
  • the new material unconsciously opposes long-held beliefs.

We are programmed to maintain our status quo and resist anything new unless our beliefs/mental models recognize that the new material will align with our status quo regardless of the efficacy of the required change.

How We Train

The training model assumes that if new material

  • is recognized as important, rational, and useful,
  • is offered in a logical, informative, interesting way,
  • allows time for experience and practice,

it will become accepted and habituated. But these assumptions are faulty. At an unconscious level, this model attempts to push something foreign into a closed system (our status quo): it might be adopted briefly, but if it opposes our habituated norm, it will show up as a threat and be resisted. This is the same problem faced when sellers attempt to place a new solution, or doctors attempt to change the habits of ill patients. It has little to do with the new, and everything to do with change management.

Truly experiential learning has a higher probability of being adopted because it uses the experience – like walking on coals, doing trust-falls with team members – to shift the underlying beliefs where the change takes place. Until or unless there is a belief change, and the underlying system is ready, willing, and able to adopt the new material into the accepted status quo, the change will not be permanent.

One of the unfortunate assumptions of the training field is that the teach/experience/practice model is effective and if learning doesn’t take place it’s the fault of the learner (much like sellers think the buyer is the problem, coaches thinks clients are the problem, and Listeners think Speakers are the problem). Effective training must change beliefs first.

Learning Facilitation

To avoid resistance and support adoption, training must enable

  1. buy-in from the belief/system status;
  2. the system to discover its own areas of lack and create an acceptable opening for change

before the new material is offered.

I had a problem to resolve when designing my first Buying Facilitation® training program in 1983. Because my content ran counter to an industry norm (sales), I had to help learners overcome a set of standardized beliefs and accepted processes endemic to the field. Learners would have to first recognize that their habitual skills were insufficient and higher success ratios were possible by adding (not necessarily subtracting) new ones. I called my training design Learning Facilitation and have used this model successfully for decades. (See my paper in The 2003 Annual: Volume 1 Training [Jossey-Bass/Pfieffer]: “Designing Curricula for Learning Environments Using a Facilitative Teaching Approach to Empower Learners” pp 263-272).

Briefly: Day 1 helps learners recognize the components of their unconscious status quo while identifying skills necessary for greater excellence: specifically, what they do that works and what they do that doesn’t work, and how their current skills match up with their unique definition of excellence within the course parameters. Day 2 enables learners to identify skills that would supplement their current skills to choose excellence at will, and tests for, and manages, acceptance and resistance. Only then do new behaviors get introduced and practiced.

Course material is designed with ‘learning’ in mind (rather than content sharing/behavior change), and looks quite different from conventional training. For example Day 1 uses no desks, no notes, and no lectures. I teach learners how to enlist their unconscious to facilitate buy-in for new material.

Whether it’s my training model or your own, just ask yourself: Do you want to train? Or have someone learn? They are two different activities.

About the Author

Sharon Drew Morgen is a visionary, original thinker, and thought leader in change management and decision facilitation. She works as a coach, trainer, speaker, and consultant, and has authored 9 books including the NYTimes Business BestsellerSelling with Integrity. Morgen developed the Buying Facilitation® method ( in 1985 to facilitate change decisions, notably to help buyers buy and help leaders and coaches affect permanent change. Her newest book What? explains how to close the gap between what’s said and what’s heard. She can be reached at [email protected]