“What if we train them and they leave?”
“What if we don’t and they stay?”
I love this quote as it says a lot about the way we approach training and development in our teams.
I often hear of businesses reducing the amount of training they provide when the pressure is on. Whether it is due to a staff shortage or spending cuts, training is one of the first and easiest things to cut. Reducing training often provides short-term gains such as saving on spending and possibly travel and accommodation, along with ‘no colleagues missing’ on training courses allowing all hands to be on deck. It is also seen to have few immediate negative effects and if performance is good at that moment, everyone will carry on as normal. There is however another side worth considering when training stops. These are some of the things we don’t directly see.
- Colleague engagement
Training is often a good experience and colleagues say they feel more engaged with the business and more valued when they are encouraged to attend training. As training is focused on making colleagues more productive in their roles or developing new skills, the benefits can make them feel good whether they want to progress, take on more responsibilities or become more efficient at what they already do. Stopping or reducing training has been seen to reduce morale and this often means a reduced work rate as well as colleagues feeling undervalued or not worthy of the time and money. These effects can be felt immediately or can take a while to surface and it is hard to tell if colleagues are feeling this way.
- People sometimes muddle through
It can be great when colleagues learn from other colleagues as they find out the best way of doing things from those who are experienced and knowledgeable in that area. There is always the danger however that they are learning the wrong way of doing things or at least not exactly the best way. I am currently working with a business where there are several colleagues who have been highlighted as potential leaders because they have a good work ethic and are competent within their current role, often doing more than what is expected. They have also expressed a desire to move through the ranks and further their career. As part of the work I am doing, one of the actions set was giving each potential leader one or two colleagues to manage so they could learn the skills to be an effective manager. When observing them before the training started, I noted several occasions where colleagues managed their teams as they have been managed and using techniques that did not always yield the best results. This is because that is all they had known and things can continue in this way if no formal training is given.
- Checking back
Another issue I see often is a lack of ‘check back’. When we have conversations with our teams and they seem to know what is expected and how to go about a project, we have confidence that they will go away and do a good job, particularly when they are enthusiastic when we set the task. I often see that due to time constraints, work load or regularity of conversations we do not ‘check back’. If we did, we could see how they are getting on and understand if they are doing the job to the standard we require. This is also a great opportunity for feedback and praise. A lack of ‘check back’ can cause errors or missed targets and this sometimes does not come to light until it is too late.
- Working smarter not harder
I often ask leaders ‘If I had a magic wand, what is the one behavioural change you would love to see appear in your team?’ Nine times out of ten they say they wish teams would act more ‘empowered’, make their own decisions, create solutions to problems and not turn a blind eye to potential issues. Often when speaking with colleagues they say a lack of confidence is the main reason they don’t do these things. They don’t feel like they have the skills to make decisions effectively or don’t see problem-solving as their role but only to bring to light problems for managers to fix.
Often some targeted training can help with these skills, not only for colleagues but also for managers. Training gives colleagues the skills required to be more empowered and the confidence to act when necessary. It can also enable managers with the skills to encourage empowerment to support them in making these changes in behaviour. When I have delivered these types of programmes I also see a change in the managers as they become more confident in their teams’ abilities. This encourages them to become empowered themselves and work at a higher level.
The above points are just a few things to think about if you ever consider reducing training within your organisation. I think one piece of advice I would give to anyone planning training, is to really think about what you need to get from the training and ask yourself ‘what is my required return on investment?’ This will help you make sure that the time you and your colleagues spend and the money invested is maximised. I find having the answers to these questions helps the training to be targeted, measurable and delivered in the right way at the right level.
The NHC and Thinking Success UK High Performing Leaders programme kicks off in September. For more information visit the events page here.