Though we’ve been promised for some time that the world economy is in recovery, there are ample signs that this recovery exists only in the minds of dreamers and schemers. The EU is still stuck in a Grecian quagmire (and other countries are at the brink). Stock indices are unsteady and unsure; the numbers aren’t based in reality, anyway. Consumer confidence waxes and wanes with the promise (unfulfilled) of job recovery. Unemployment rates remain high, as more companies are shedding employees but spending on equipment.
Employee productivity has been on the increase for some time, so we don’t need as many people to do the same amount of work, right? That’s one reason this is called a jobless recovery. Another reason many people aren’t finding work is that they lack the skills employers are demanding. Whose fault – and whose problem – is that?
There are several reasons for the gap between actual and desired skills, just as there are several ways to address the gap. As technology has progressed, workers have failed to keep pace. They also don’t get the material aid or the direction from employers or the government that they once did. The public education system is failing our present and future workforce egregiously, yet the cost of education and training – adequate or not – is well beyond the reach of most.
Even if they can afford the education and training, in what direction should the workforce be heading? We know what the “hot jobs” are now but are the necessary skills for those jobs still going to be in demand in a couple of years? How about 4-5 years from now? We were down this path not that long ago with teaching – remember? Teachers were thought to be in short supply in the USA just a decade ago, so we fast-tracked teaching candidates in a “Teach for America” program and herded many young people into education degrees. Now, for some reason, Americans seem to think public education is unnecessary overhead; we continue to cut education budgets in every state.
Perhaps it’s time for business to take a proactive approach to education and training. Investing in employee competence, awareness, and training has always had a huge upside. The most successful companies in history are those that have invested their time and money in their greatest assets – their people.
I can give you several other great reasons why investing in education and training is “a win all around”:
- It’s a sign of responsible and responsive management and employees appreciate that. Too many organizations feel that if they train their employees, those workers will take their new skills somewhere else. The opposite is true – companies that invest in their employees are rewarded with productivity and loyalty.
- A well-trained workforce reduces risk. Most on-the-job injuries occur because workers weren’t properly trained. Lost productivity isn’t the only risk – there’s also the very real risk of increased health care and workers’ compensation costs. Don’t forget the risk of a civil or criminal lawsuit.
- Educated, trained workers make your company more competitive. No explanation needed, is there?
- Continuing education paves the way for change. The more educated and trained your employees become, the more they understand the inevitability of change and the need for them to take an active role. Your employees becoming change agents for your business may be the best thing to happen to your firm.
- To ensure your company’s compliance with standards and regulations, your employees need to be aware of what compliance is and know why it’s important. How can they comply with rules they’re unaware of?
- Training and education help break down silos, by improving communication among individuals and groups. Education is not just about learning specific technical skills; it includes so-called soft skills, like communication, leadership, and policy.
- Employees who are given the tools they need – like ongoing education – are more satisfied, committed, and engaged workers. These are the people who will give your customers personal service and real value and, in the process, encourage your customers to advocate on your behalf. Cheaper, more productive, and longer lasting than sales gimmicks.
- Enterprises in which employees are well-educated are more sustainable enterprises. As more employees are groomed for leadership – whether it’s leading a department or functional area, leading the company, or being the person everyone “naturally” looks up to – the more secure employees, customers, and other stakeholders are with regard to the company’s future.
If you’re already ensuring your workforce is properly trained – or if you plan to improve or increase your employee training and education programs, great for you. If you’re not, well…
- “HR Trends and Priorities for 2012”, McLean & Company, Inc., 2011 – http://solutions.infotech.com/rs/infotech/images/McLeanCompany-HR-Trends-and-Priorities-2012.pdf.
- ISO 9001:2008, “Quality Management Systems-Requirements”, International Organization for Standardization (ISO), 2008 – http://www.iso.org/iso/iso_catalogue/catalogue_tc/catalogue_detail.htm?csnumber=46486.
- Reynolds Lewis, Katherine, “How to Groom Gen Y to Take the Company Reins”, Fortune-CNN, 1 Dec 2011 – http://management.fortune.cnn.com/2011/12/01/grooming-generation-y-leaders/.
- Stern, Gary M., “A Digital Pat on the Back from the Boss: What’s It Worth?”, Fortune-CNN, 26 Jan 2012 – http://management.fortune.cnn.com/2012/01/26/employee-recognition-retention-software/.