Reaping the benefits of an employee training plan

Recent research from Robert Half UK found that the importance of employee training goes far beyond businesses reaching their goals. Phil Sheridan, senior managing director at Robert Half UK, explains some of the findings.

The recruitment industry is more important and competitive than ever. Companies are under pressure to achieve growth, improve, and ensure workers are in place with the required skills. With the war for talent only intensifying, investing in internal training has become vital.

According to research by Robert Half UK, employee training not only benefits the business in reaching their goals, but crucially, it also improves employee satisfaction. This is key in attracting and retaining the top talent. So, how can organisations ensure they are making the most of their workforce?

The benefits of implementing training programmes

Beat the skills shortage

The British Chamber of Commerce recently revealed that half of the 1,400 businesses they surveyed had faced skills shortages in the last year. An effective way to beat this deficit is to make your company as attractive as possible to candidates.

According to research conducted for our latest Salary Guide, many businesses plan to place more emphasis on offering employee training development to junior candidates to limit the impact of the talent shortage in this particular generation. This is especially true for the financial services industry.

Increase employee happiness

Happiness in the workplace is essential for staff retention, obtaining business goals, reaching optimum productivity and engagement, and creating/sustaining a culture of positivity. Research conducted by Groupon showed that almost a third (30 per cent) UK professionals have taken independent measures to upskill in the past five years.

Our research shows that UK businesses are now putting greater emphasis on employee training and development to increase job satisfaction and improve retention. We found that 22% of employees in Wales regularly learned something new, followed by 16 per cent in London and 12 per cent in Scotland.

Preparing for digital transformation

Trends suggest that UK businesses are preparing to undergo a digital transformation to facilitate better productivity and more agile responses to changes in the market.

This shift to digital means that many roles need to evolve to continue to serve the business function efficiently. A survey of 200 CFOs showed that analytical, communication and problem-solving skills are top on the agenda.

Planning for employee training

Finding appropriate employee training topics can feel challenging if you aren’t sure what you’re looking for in respect to each role. Here’s a breakdown on how to start planning employee training:

  • Conduct a skills audit – Send out an employee skills audit to gauge which areas need development before you set any plans in motion. This will help you create a fuller picture and identify where the gaps lie.
  • Look at the company’s long-term goals – To reach digital transformation goals and growth targets, your company will have very specific needs. Look ahead and use your employee skill assessment results to identify any areas that require development and support in the future.
  • Measure against your employee’s career development plan – Ahead of putting anything concrete in place, it’s important to discuss each employee’s career development plans with them. This ensures there is a mutual understanding about what the individual wants to achieve and learn in order to reach their personal career goals. As a result, workplace training can be designed to incorporate the needs and demands of a business’s workforce.

      Lessons in leadership training

      Whether it’s preparing the perfect soufflé or belting out a Brazilian samba beat on the drums, leadership courses today come in all shapes and sizes. Here are some ways of assisting today’s – and moulding tomorrow’s – leaders.

      Two-thirds of UK organisations are suffering from a shortage of highly effective leaders, according to a survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. A lack of interest and reluctance from employees to take up the leadership mantle is, apparently, proving to be a huge barrier to delivering the required improvements.

      What is needed is for companies to take the lead. One of the best ways they can do this, says national leadership organisation JCI UK (part of the global leadership organisation Junior Chamber International), is to adopt innovative ways to develop skills that actually appeal to individuals. The organisation says leadership development training should combine theory as well as practical experience, so that companies can develop individuals capable of leading them through tough times or periods of change. Methods vary, depending on funds, inclination and time available. The key to training though, is getting the right people on the right courses.

      Invest a billion

      One company that invests heavily in leadership training is US giant General Electric (GE). It spends an incredible $1 billion a year on training, but then, with 27,000 employees in 35 countries generating revenues of $152.4bn in 2004, it can well afford to. But the company puts its success down to the training it offers all its staff.

      GE Commercial Finance (GECF), the largest business in the GE stable, makes sure all of its business leaders undergo extensive training via a dedicated leadership programme. In fact, it sends more than 12,500 people on its Financial Management Leadership Programme course. In 2004, nearly 96 per cent of GECF employees participated in some form of company-sponsored course or training, ranging from courses on basic business writing to financial modelling, to leadership traits. These school its executives on ways to work with difficult personalities or exploring the nuances of managing 10,000 people.

      A cheaper option

      If your company doesn’t have a spare billion dollars, mentoring remains a more practical leadership-learning tool. Mentoring is a way for an experienced entrepreneurial leader to give career assistance to a leader of the future. Mentoring relationships are especially helpful during periods of transition, such as a new business launch, an acquisition or a period of business expansion. There are many mentoring groups that exist and even the highest-profile business leaders find time to speak to mentors to offer them advice or act as an independent sounding board.

      Marching to the beat of a different drum

      Creative approaches to teaching leadership are becoming more prevalent. Creative art forms, such as drumming, theatre and poetry, are being used increasingly by executives to improve their leadership communication skills. Apparently, drumming, which involves a lot of working as a team, requires an ability to listen and appreciate what others are doing around you. Meanwhile, techniques derived from theatre, such as direction and rehearsal, can coax better performances from the players, who can then take those skills into their leadership of the business.

      One West Yorkshire-based collective, known as Drumming 4 Business, runs successful workshops throughout England and Europe. Its team drums vigour into a range of Brazilian and Latin rhythms in inspirational team-building workshops for groups ranging from 20 to a thousand people.

      Although the mere thought of a day out of the office tackling Brazilian drumming will fill many with fear and dread, these ‘powerful and energising’ workshops are said to encourage staff to work cooperatively to create an exciting performance. The frenetic musical output can build a happier workplace, create stronger working relationships and team spirit, promote more effective communication and develop leadership and coaching skills. Well, that’s the theory.

      Another leadership fad revolves around the wordplay of poetry, which, its proponents claim, can lend a greater impact to everyday business communications such as emails. The blurb promises that entrepreneurial leaders, who may start off feeling uneasy at these sessions, will leave stimulated, enlightened and challenged, and with greater skills as business managers.

      ‘We help and advise businesses using creative-based techniques,’ says Jonathan Tuchner from regional creative network organisation Arts & Business. ‘We meet with companies, find out what their problems are or what it is they are trying to achieve, and then we design a bespoke solution. We actually take artists from our database into their offices.’ Tuchner is quick to add that these methods are ‘not gimmicky’ and ‘have proven business success’.

      Cooking up leadership skills

      Another new approach to leadership training involves cooking. Honest. One enthusiast is Guy Sellwood, of international performance improvement consultancy Prosell, which held a cookery training session for leaders, called Get, Set, Cook.

      Says Sellwood: ‘We were looking for something different to illustrate the principles of coaching with a group of leaders and managers, many of whom had already attended traditional coaching training. Cookery, and oriental cooking in particular, came to mind because it is creative, involves teams, requires a wide range of technical skills, and can be enjoyed by everyone. Oriental cookery is perfect because dishes can be made relatively quickly and with limited preparation.’

      The cookery session went very well, says Sellwood, with everyone getting involved in the session and ‘a number of key lessons learnt’. These included the importance of accuracy and thoroughness in instruction, ably demonstrated when the team were using very sharp knives and the exceedingly hot oven. He also says the group learnt a lot about themselves as a team, in terms of strengths and weaknesses. ‘There were surprises in store, in particular with regard to how the team had seen themselves before and after the event.

      The debrief session saw the group coaching each other on aspects of behaviour that they would never have touched in the work place.’ Finally, Sellwood says, any training initiative needs to be supported by rigorous, directed and supportive coaching from line management. The leadership benefits of the cookery session were twofold. First was the ability to articulate and deliver feedback more effectively and second was a greater understanding of themselves. The group was able to receive feedback from colleagues in a way that helped them make sense of why things happen in certain ways.

      Have clear aims

      Whatever method of training leaders a company opts for, the most crucial point is to be clear about the aim of the effort. It is important to set clear goals and work towards them, and ensure the right people are on the right courses. Because for every Jack Welch created by a leadership course, there are a thousand Gerald Ratners.

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Owen Gough

Owen Gough

Owen Gough is a reporter for He has a background in small business marketing strategies and is responsible for writing content on subjects ranging from small business finance to technology...