The Importance of Workplace Training

Andrea W. Johnson

By: Andrea W. Johnson - Client Development Manager, FlashPoint,

Category: Human Resources

To remain competitive in a global economy, Indiana businesses must have a skilled workforce that is able to adapt to change. With one-third of Hoosier workers falling below national standards for workplace skills, many Indiana businesses are creating on-the-job training programs to build their own skilled workforce.

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Workplace literacy today is defined as much more than the three Rs of reading, writing and arithmetic, or physical strength and a strong work ethic. Modern work environments require good communication skills, the ability to work in a team, time-management skills, the ability to adapt to change, and to work with people from diverse cultures.

By equipping workers with a modern skill set, employers gain:

• Operational effectiveness and efficiency—Through good communication and teamwork skills, employees are better able to work across job functions, to apply information, and to think critically and act logically. Trained employees are better able to adapt to change—a must in today’s economy.

• Increased job satisfaction—A recent Walker Information study of employee loyalty found that two areas that drive loyalty are the businesses’ focus on employees, and training and development opportunities. Engaged, motivated employees are more likely stay in their jobs, and reduction in employee turnover boosts the bottom line.

• More attractive workplace—The national unemployment rate at the end of March 2007 was a low 4.4 percent, making recruiting qualified talent a challenge. Employees want a place to work where they can hone their skills and better their lives, and the best employees are more attracted to organizations that offer such programs.

• Transfer of organizational knowledge—By 2015, nearly 20 percent of the nation’s workers will be 55 years old or older, up from 13 percent now. Businesses must utilize job audits and other collection methods to document the tacit knowledge of employees who have been with the organization for years, and they must train those longtime employees to share their knowledge with others.

• Better managers—A 2006 Hudson survey found that while 92 percent of managers consider themselves to be an excellent or good boss, only 67 percent of employees rate their managers favorably. Good employees are usually promoted because they show an aptitude for management, but they must be trained on effective coaching, discipline, and performance-management skills.

• Reduced compliance risk—Government regulators across the country are mandating compliance training on sexual harassment, Sarbanes-Oxley, and corporate ethics. By implementing training on these issues, as well as on diversity and workplace conduct, employers can reduce their risk of complaints, and, equally important, create a positive work environment.

To achieve these results, businesses must establish a training program that includes the following elements:

• Needs analysis—Training shouldn’t be done just for the sake of doing it. To ensure quantifiable results, it is essential to analyze what skills employees are lacking and what business results are desired.

• Defined, measurable objectives—an organization can measure its training program by whatever factors it wishes to improve: customer satisfaction, quality, productivity, employee satisfaction, sales or revenue, retention, or overall profitability are a few examples.

• Resources—While some larger organizations retain in-house training staff, many outsource to training professionals. Look for experienced trainers who are able to assist with all phases of the training cycle: analysis, setting measurable objectives, designing and performing the training, and evaluating the results.

• Results evaluation—It is possible to demonstrate the return on investment in training. Successful evaluation begins with knowing exactly what is to be accomplished before designing the training program, then diligently measuring the results to establish transfer of knowledge back to job.

If financial resources are a hurdle, here are a few resources available to Indiana businesses to establish a well-trained, productive workforce:

Ready Indiana, established this year by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, provides information about training resources in the state and educates employers about the benefits of effective training programs.

State and federal agencies offer several grant programs to help improve employee skills. Training Acceleration Grants, available through the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, provide financial assistance to organizations to expand the transferable skills of their existing workforce. The Skills Enhancement Fund, available through the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, provides reimbursement to Indiana companies for basic-skill training expenses.

Andrea W. Johnson is the client development manager at FlashPoint, a human resource and management consulting firm. www.flashpointhr.com.

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