In today’s current economic climate, providing training for your staff is often seen as an area that can be cut back when money needs to be saved. For some strange reason the activity of up-skilling and motivating your staff by making them more efficient at their jobs through training is one of the areas that is often neglected.
The attitude of ‘sticking with that we’ve currently got’ and ‘no spending on staff development’ when times are tough, while at the same time trying to motivate your staff to work harder and see you through the difficult times – I find this a difficult one to accept.
When you look at the make up of any business you’ll invariably find that its staff costs run in at 60 to 70 per cent of its total outgoings. So the productivity, outlook, prospects and motivations of your staff can be deemed as critical for its success.
There’s a myth that says that during the tough climate, if your staff are ‘motivated enough’ then your business will do well. That’s just ridiculous. I am not proficient in my role, don’t have prospects, don’t feel valued, don’t feel that I am worth investing in and that there isn’t something in it for me, then guess what? I’m not going to be motivated. And by taking away the opportunity for me to develop my skills not only hurts my motivations, and me as a worker, it also sends out the wrong messages, and hurts the company too.
Let me explain: During an economic slowdown we all need to find an ‘extra
20 per cent’ from somewhere, whether that be in efficiency, customer service, sales or time – you name it. We all need to be better at what we do and how we do it. So not investing in your staff development kind of shoots you in the foot. Why would you not want to provide employees with the tools to make them more efficient to save you time or money or to make you more sales?Three vital areas
The quality of your management team is a vital ingredient for a successful business. They need to manage the ‘here and the now’ as well as looking to drive the business forward in the future. But how many of your team have just ‘stumbled’ into the role with no formal training? Now is the time to invest in them to take your business to the next level.Customer service & sales skills
Anyone who has contact with prospects and clients should receive customer service and sales training. To deliver a good job is no longer good enough. Your customers demand more and more from you, and at the same time expect to pay less and less – it’s just the way things are. So your staff need to make the most of every customer interaction to wow them with the levels of customer service that they receive and at the same time they should be able to spot up sell and cross sell opportunities and be able to convert these into monetary gain.Efficiency skills
During a recession you and your staff need to think differently. That means being creative in what you do and also working as efficiently as possible. A recession is a good time to take stock of ‘how you do things around here’ so having training on process improvement techniques, innovation, creativity and being more effective is a wise investment.
Please don’t think that developing your staff means sending them on a course. I’m not just talking about hiring external
training providers here.
Instead, I’m talking about:
- Internal training courses run by your own trainers or managers
- Online training
- Lunch and learn sessions
- Internal coaching and mentoring
- Investing in CDs and books
- Attending open courses
- Shadowing and buddying up
There are many ways to improve the skills of your staff. Some of them require investment but a lot of them don’t. In tougher market conditions your staff are crying out for additional skills to cope more effectively with the ever-changing business environment. And if your staff are the ones left after redundancies have been made or if they are now in new roles, then the cry is even louder.
Lord Digby Jones, the former minister for trade and investment, who previously served as the UK’s skills envoy, forecasts a tough year ahead and stressed the importance of businesses being prepared for the upturn when it comes.
“We are in for a very difficult 2009 and we have not seen the worst of it by a mile,” he said. “It’s going to get worse and it’s going to be deep. It’s a time for strong hearts and a time for having confidence in the integrity of your business model.
“If you are good enough you will get through this and one good thing about recession is it does weed out chaff. Businesses can use this as a way of taking stock and coming out of it stronger.
“But if there are two things you should not stop doing, one is marketing and networking and secondly, don’t cut the training budget. You can’t come out of a recession without skilled people, and if you think training is expensive, try ignorance. Keep training people so we are ready for the upturn.” Sean McPheat is the founder and managing director of MTD Training.
MTD has trained over 10,000 staff from 20 different countries on how to improve their management and selling skills.
For a free email management skills course please visit www.mtdtraining.com