- How can learning and development help your organisation
Developing your employees is a long-term process consisting of learning and training that can help your members of staff to acquire skills and knowledge through a variety of different methods. Developing your employees’ abilities and skills can have numerous different benefits to your organisation. Some of the benefits that can be afforded by investing time and money into your employees are:
- Achieve business objectives – you may be lacking the skills necessary in order to achieve your business or departmental objectives. Developing your employees can help your organisation gain these skills and therefore achieve your objectives;
- Win contracts – some potential clients may require you to have specific qualifications or skill sets. Developing your employees can help to gain these skills and may put you in a better position to win the work;
- Motivate employees – Investing time and money into your employees can motivate them and make them more loyal to you. If you are investing in them, they are more likely to invest in you;
- Improve employee retention – motivated, happy employees that feel valued are more likely to stay with you than ones who aren’t happy in their roles;
- Reduce risks within your organisation – in order to reduce H&S risks, or tackle unwanted behaviour in the workplace, a level of training may be needed; and
- Increase your employer brand – by presenting your company as one that invests in its people can help portray you as a desirable company to work for. This can help you become an employer of choice and is likely to increase the level of candidate that you get applying for vacancies.
- Methods of development
There are many different approaches that you can take when developing your employees, there are also different situations in which learning can take place. The main categories that need to be considered are:
- Internal or external. The development action can either be implemented by someone internally, i.e. another employee or manager, or externally by an outside organisation. The aims of the development action and the skills that already exist within your organisation will determine which is the most appropriate.
- Group or individual. The development action can either take place as a group or on a one-to-one basis. This will obviously depend upon how many people require to take part in the learning.
- At the place of work or away from the place of work. The development action can either take place at the place of work or away from the place of work. Classroom learning can be useful for theoretical learning, whereas learning in the work place offers a much more hands on and practical approach.
- Formal or informal. Whenever you decide that there is learning that needs to take place and implement a plan to action this learning, this will always be formal learning. Whilst you cannot have ultimate control over informal learning you need to be aware that it does take place. You need to also take actions to ensure that the informal learning does not contradict your policies and procedures. Informal learning will happen between colleagues and whilst can be useful, sometimes bad habits can be passed from one employee to another, which can be problematic.
- Internal methods of development
As was mentioned [yesterday?] there are both internal and external methods that can help to develop your employees. The different types of internal methods are:
- On-the-job training. This is usually done one-to-one or in small groups in the work environment so that the learner can get a hands-on experience. The trainer will often show the learner how to do the task, then the learner will be observed and directed whilst carrying out the task. It is important that the person who is passing across their skills is following the correct procedures for the tasks and isn’t cutting corners. This is especially important when it comes to health & safety issues.
- Coaching and mentoring. Coaching and mentoring is a great way for employees to learn from each other. A mentor can pass across knowledge about the company and the role and can offer support and guidance when it is needed. It can be a great way to develop employees so long as the mentor has the time and is invested in helping develop their mentee. It can also be a positive and rewarding experience for the mentor.
- Job rotation, secondment, and shadowing. All these methods of learning can be incredibly beneficial to the learner and the organisation. The process can help to create discussions and for new ways of thinking to be developed. However, if an employee is in another department for a long period of time then you need to ensure that that employees workload is being taken on by someone else. This may mean that it is shared amongst the rest of the department if they have the capacity to do so, just remember not to overload anyone with additional work.
- External methods of development
As was mentioned previously there are both internal and external methods that can help to develop your employees. The different types of external methods are:
- External courses can help develop or introduce skills that are not already in your organisation or are too complex for people within your organisation to deliver. They also can create a protected time for learning where the learner doesn’t have to worry about ensuring that they are doing their usual role whilst also trying to concentrate on the learning or have to do it in their own time.
- Formal education and qualifications. Formal education and qualifications can help the learner gain vast amounts of knowledge around a specific subject area. They will also usually provide the learner with some sort of accreditation which may either be a legal requirement or can help when taking on new work. These causes may not suit every learner.
- Outdoor learning. Outdoor learning, such as orienteering courses and other outdoor type activities, can be very useful for team building and leadership development. These types of learning help to develop softer skills, such as, team work, leadership and other skills that aren’t necessarily connected to a particular role within your organisation. In it is important that you do not use an outdoor learning activities that will exclude anyone from participating.
- Distance learning and e-learning. Access to distance learning and e-learning is flexible and can be done at the learner’s convenience. Whilst this can be a major advantage to this type of learning it can also be its biggest downfall. Some learners may find it difficult to put aside the time in order to complete the learning. It is also more difficult to ask questions and check understanding than face-to-face learning.
- Which method is best
Over the last couple of days, we have talked about the different methods for developing your employees. But which method is best? There isn’t a one size fits all answer to this. There are both organisational and learner considerations which need to be thought about when deciding which method is best.
The organisational considerations which you need to think about are:
- The nature of the learning need;
- The priority of the learning need;
- Organisational culture;
- Previous learning and development interventions; and
- Budget available.
The learner considerations which you need to think about are:
- Occupation and seniority of the learner;
- Demands of the leaner’s job role and home life
- Qualifications and educational background of the learner; and
- Learner preference.
- How to justify
Spending on employee development is often not a major priority for organisations and is often the first thing to be cut during times of economic difficulties. Therefore, if you are wanting to spend time, money, and other resources on developing employees it is likely that you will need to justify this spending.
In some instances, the justification may be that it is a legal requirement. In cases like these it is likely to be easier to get the spend to be signed off. However, non-mandatory training may be a little bit more difficult to convince the powers that be that the development is needed and worthwhile. Therefore, you will need to be able to justify this spending. In order to do this, you should take the following steps.
- Identify an issue;
- Identify learning activities that could fix it; and
- Create a business a case.
- Identify an issue and a solution
All organisations, no matter how well they are run, will have issues or problems which they need to overcome. In some situations, development actions can help to overcome these issues. Before you can determine this however, you need to understand the underlying cause for the issue. For example, you may have noticed a drop in productivity which may have been identified through a variety of KPI’s. The figures can show you that something is wrong but it cannot always explain the cause. A common cause for a drop in productivity is demotivated employees that feel undervalued.
Once you have established the underlying cause you can then look for a solution. Sometimes this may be something quite simple where processes and procedures need to be tweaked, in other instances development activities may help to rectify the problem. If a realistic solution is development of employees, you should then decide on the most appropriate method of learning for this. The things that need to be thought about here are the organisational and learner considerations and whether any development actions have previously taken place and if they were successful or not. This information can then help you to build a business case which we will be going into in more detail [tomorrow?].
- Create a business case
Once you have identified an issue and what development action could resolve it, you should then cost out how much the development action is likely to cost. You should take into account the cost of the activity, the time taken away from the workplace, and any additional factors, such as, travel and management time. Once you have done this you should create a business case that answers the following questions:
- Why is the learning necessary?
- How much will the learning cost?
- When can you expect a return on the investment?
- Do you really need to act?
- Is there anything else that can be done?
You should also try and pre-empt other questions that may be asked of you when presenting your business case so that you have the information to hand to answer it. If you can prove that the development action is worthwhile to the organisation, then you are more likely to have it signed off. It is also important that you monitor the success of the action so that these can help to create your business case in the future.
- Training agreements
When you are putting employees on expensive and time consuming courses you may wish to ensure that you are reaping the rewards from your investment. There is a way in which you can do this, but you need to make sure that you have the necessary paperwork in place prior to the commencement of the development activity. If you want to recoup the costs of training courses in the event of an employee leaving then you need to put in place a training agreement, sometimes referred to as a training fee agreement. This ensures that you have the express written permission of the employee. Remember if you make deductions from an employee’s wages without their prior written consent this would be an unlawful deduction of wages.
However, there are certain instances in which you cannot use a training fee agreement. If an employee completes any mandatory training that they need in order to complete their role, then you will not be able to reclaim these costs. You also will be unable to reclaim costs for any health and safety training that the employee completes.
The training agreement should clearly lay out the terms in which the training is provided and in what circumstances training costs will be expected to be paid back by the employee. The repayment terms need to be reasonable and are usually on a sliding scale so that the employee pays back fees the longer they are with the organisation.
- Succession planning
Employees will come and go, this is the way that business is. However, there are times when someone leaving the organisation can cause turmoil and disruption. This is likely to be the case when someone senior, or with a specific skill set, leaves and there is no-one to take over their role. Obviously these roles can be filled via recruitment, however, forward planning can also help in these situations with the use of succession planning. Succession planning is the process by which you can identify and develop your current employees to fill roles where you know the current employee is likely to leave, whether this is because they have been promoted or they have expressed an interest to retire. It is vital that you remember that there is no longer a mandatory retirement age and therefore you should not assume that an employee is going to retire at 60, 65, or any age.
The employee currently in the role can help to mentor anyone who could potentially fill their role. This can help employees progress within the company and feel valued. It also means that if you recruit from within then the employee already knows the organisation’s norms, values, and processes. It can also help you to maintain skills and talent within your business as if an ambitious employee isn’t given the opportunity to progress within your organisation then they may look to move to an organisation where they can.