The Training Paradox: How We Rationalize a Failure to Drive Engagement
Competition vs. Synergy. Which is it? Does training hold production back or does it lead to increased production? This is a common issue at nearly every company. “We don’t have time to train our people now, we have to meet the production results.” How often have we heard this, and said this, at our companies?
Every organization struggles with engagement issues. Many business leaders have this utopian idea that we can get our workforce, should get our workforce, to 100% engagement and nothing less will do. Regardless of your belief, what is undoubtedly possible is that organizations can improve the engagement level from where it is today to something higher in the future. But how do we do this and what is the best way?
There are many paths on the journey to increased engagement. The first question, before you begin the journey, is to ask, “what is the outcome I desire by increasing the engagement?” Again, there may be many answers. Almost assuredly there will be a combination rather than only one to meet the needs of any organization. In those desired outcomes is almost assuredly an increase in key performance indicators (KPIs): production output, quality output, or both.
The Hidden Truth
The single most important thing that an organization can do to improve engagement is to invest in and implement the training of its people.
Here is the crux of the issue… Intuitively, we all understand that it is important to train our people. However, when it comes to meeting the results to which we are all held accountable, training is among the first actions that we resist with the rationalization that, “I don’t have time to train, I have to meet my production expectations. Training will just slow us down and make us miss our timeline or production levels.”
So, if we rationalize away the investment in training, how can we meet the outcomes we desire: production increases?
I am sure we would be amazed at the most common solution that occurs to nearly all organizations— Recruit trained talent!
Unfortunately, though this was a pretty good response at the bottom of the recent recession, when the talent needed by so many companies was unemployed and readily available, today, as with most economic circumstances, this is far more challenging, outside of a spot position here or there, than such a flippant solution would suggest. In addition, when you hire outside the organization as opposed to promoting from within (which an organization might have done if it had the talent it needed) or training the current workforce, how do you think the employees feel?
The Message Training Sends
Numerous studies over the last decade indicate that employees want to know their company cares about them. Employees want to feel like they belong, that they have a future and a career path. So, when employees see that the positions they want are handed over to outside talent, and they remain in their roles with no professional growth opportunities available to them at their employer, how engaged do you think that workforce becomes? What happens to turnover, retention, succession planning and production?
Add to the mix the fact that, as part of strategic planning, more organizations are developing powerful and energizing mission, vision, and value statements and propositions to focus the organization on a common purpose — a shared vision if you will. When you review enough of these values espoused by organizations, employee satisfaction or something similar signifying how an organization cares for its people is in almost every one of them. But, when the actions of the organization contradict these statements because they don’t adequately invest in and implement the training and development of their people, what message is actually sent to the employees and what is the impact of their engagement?
“The company lies!”
“Management will say anything to get what they want and does not really care about you!”
“We are just cogs in a wheel.”
“Employees are just numbers.”
Does this sound familiar? Does this sound like an engaged workforce to you?
Training and development is critical. As the Baby Boomer generation exits and Millennials enter, how will knowledge transfer happen without training? How will succession planning happen without training and professional development? Isn’t it easier and less costly to the organization to recruit entry level than to recruit middle and upper level skilled and management positions? And when your teams receive the training and professional development, what impact does that have on the attainment of your objectives— improved production and/or quality?
Training and development of your people needs to be a strong component of the organization. Nothing an organization does says it cares about their people more than when they invest in them through training and development. It should not, and cannot, replace the need to recruit. Sometimes the time it takes to get an employee to the skill level needed immediately is far too long, and in that situation external recruitment will be required. But this should be the exception and not the rule.
Further, external recruitment is always going to be important to bring in new ideas and innovation to an organization, but it cannot replace the need to train and develop the current workforce. Recruitment does not drive engagement. Parties, prizes, recognition are all important components of driving engagement in many organizations, but they are short lived. Only training and development provides the long term and lasting rise in employee engagement, and with it the attainment of desired production results.
Do drive the engagement of your people through training and development. Avoid rationalizing it away. You will be amazed at the long-term production results achieved.
If your company is ready to strategically address, improve and invest in the hiring of the most important part of any company – it’s people— please contact us today!
I could not agree more. Training signifies a company’s belief in their employees; belief that the employee can perform the required tasks to help the company reach its goals, and belief that the employee has potential that will continue to be uncovered and be useful in their career. Training not only drives engagement within the walls of a company, but also within the minds of employees. Through training, employees often unearth skills and abilities previously unknown to them before. Learning these new skills grows the employee closer to their employer and also makes them more confident as a person.
@ Ben Molenda – Thank you for your very thoughtful comment.