West End Training

Why Train?

Consider an issue: a leading newspaper has just published a report, claiming that the Army has been sending untrained soldiers who have just joined up for the army straight into a field of open combat.

What is your reaction?

In all probability it is one of shock, of horror, of fear, for those poor untrained recruits being thrown into an unfamiliar environment with no appropriate skills to fall back on when they come under enemy fire on the battlefield.

The story is not true; simply created for the purpose of this article, but nevertheless it is something to think about, is it not? We do not expect the army, renowned for its extensive training programmes, to allow such a thing to occur. The ATRA (Army Training and Recruiting Agency) has an annual training budget of nearly £380m with which to provide the extensive three stages of training required before soldiers are sent out into the field. It prepares soldiers for expected and possible scenarios, equipping them with the appropriate skills for combat, as well as motivation, teamwork and leadership skills.

Why then do we apply such different principles to our own working environments? They might not be going out into a field of battle, but employees nevertheless face everyday challenges and conflicts that many of them do not have the training or skills for. Whatever standard of education we were educated to, in most cases they do not equip us for the working world, but only provide the basic elementary skills we will need. In most other elements of our working lives we are untrained – time management, teamwork, stress management, assertiveness, and so on. The list is endless.

Whilst it would be wholly unrealistic to expect the same pre-training in skills required for the job that an army recruit receives, it should be a fact of business life that employees are afforded some support in these matters. Staff are required to adapt to their new situations, often developing inefficient and ineffective methods of dealing with things. Staff training is becoming a more prominent part of the business plans of many companies, but there are still a woefully large number who are reluctant to do so.

However, it is not necessarily that there is a malicious reluctance not to train, but that training is in many cases misunderstood by businesses: its purpose, its necessity, its implications and its practicalities. This article intends to upturn some of these misunderstandings, and highlight that training need not be the complication, unneeded expense, or hassle that many businesses see it to be. Instead, it should have an essential role in all companies; without it they will not develop in the same effective manner as their rivals who do train their staff.

The major concern of many businesses is the ‘perceived’ cost of training. Although the cost of training cannot be denied, it simply cannot be viewed in such a short sighted manner. Instead, it should be considered in a more long term perspective: how will an investment in training produce its return? Motorola conducted a survey many years ago to assess the likely return on investment from training programmes for their staff. What they discovered was that the likely return on their investment was nearly 3:1: for every pound they spent on training, they would get three back in profits generated by increased productivity. As a result they made training a key aspect for all employees, and the results can be confirmed by Motorola’s stature as a leader manufacturer. Whilst the average company might not see such a return, at least some substantial return can be gained by an investment in training.

Another concern is a lack of time for training. As with money, time must be viewed as a long term investment: by training staff they will become more efficient in their time by being able to do their job better. In all likelihood, the time investment will show itself in increased productivity, and greater time saved resulting in overall time gained. A short term inconvenience can produce long term benefits. Also, with many training companies, the time required for training is not substantially long; most of the training courses offered by West End Training are one-day courses. We value the fact that many businesses simply do not have the time to spare for long courses, and recognise the need for short ones.

A further concern is what type of training to provide. With such a wide variety of courses on offer, it seems an incredibly daunting task to select just a few from the proliferation available. What is most suitable for a particular company’s employees? This fear can be overcome with the widespread use of TNA – Training Needs Analysis. This assesses what type of training would be of greatest benefit to a company in order for it to succeed in the long term. It often pinpoints the root of an apparent problem, tackling it at the very source and removing it from the equation. For instance, a company might think that it needs to send its secretaries on a note-taking course for meetings, when in actual fact those conducting the meetings need training in managing meetings effectively.

One of the biggest problems many companies fear when considering the issue of training is losing staff. They feel that if they do train staff, it will give them heightened expectations and cause them to leave to higher positions. On the contrary – a big factor in job satisfaction has now come to be staff training. Instead of driving people away, it has been found that staff actually felt encouraged to stay if they received training. It made them feel as if they were valued as employees, and actually worth investing money in. A lack of training is more likely to drive staff away – they can feel undervalued and unmotivated to put real effort into their work as a result.

So it seems that many of the common fears of businesses when approaching the issue of training are really very short term ones. A thing to remember with training is that it is a long term investment – it does involve initial costs, in monetary terms, and in time, but it can lead to huge gains in both of these areas. With more and more companies investing in training, can your business really afford to be one of those that are not?