The 'T' Word: key to profitability, productivity
by DAVE BENAK
What is it about "training" that puts some people off? Maybe it's
the association with "basic training," "training manuals," "training
wheels" or "potty-training." Or perhaps the negative feeling of
compulsion, anal compliance, ignorance or "not ready yet" that
sometimes accompanies it. Some employers will tell you it's a waste
of money and time. I'm here to tell you that training pays huge
dividends for you and your employees. The "T" word is a good
I find it odd that companies spend thousands of
dollars to maintain their customers, equipment and facilities; but
neglect to commit any money on their most important asset: people.
Many companies spend more money emptying waste baskets than they do
on training their employees. Sure they pay their employees. But just
like a truck that is "paid" gas or diesel to make it go, regular
service is also required to protect the investment and keep it
running as long as possible. Employees need, want and often demand
knowledge, information and training. Sure, it costs money. But if
they don't get it and move on, they hand you an even costlier
turnover, recruit-ment and retraining scenario.
I've heard all the arguments for not
No time: But why is there never enough time to
do something right the first time, and always enough to do it over
and over and over again?
No money: Every organization pays for training
whether it does any or not.
Not now: If you can't implement training right
now when profits are down and you won't need it when profits are up,
when will your people get the training they want and
Nobody trained me: What would the world be like
if everybody felt this way? Why should anyone have to learn the
slow, old-school, trial-and-error way? Why not learn faster and
avoid the bad habits through the shared experiences of
We trained our people three years ago: You eat
more than once a day, right? Training on a regular basis feeds that
never-ending learning and growing machine: your employee.
No return on investment: We all want instant
results, instant gratification. But we have to give people time to
absorb new information. It takes 21 days to make a new habit and 65
days to break an old habit - that's three times the work. Training
alone will not produce dramatic results. Follow-up, feedback and
reinforcement must be given to provide a nurturing environment for
employees to feel comfortable in applying what they've learned.
Besides, how do you measure the results of your public relations or
Want proof that training benefits your bottom
line? Look at such successful companies as General Electric,
Southwest Airlines, Sears, Wal-Mart or Motorola. They train in good
times and bad. Leading companies spend an average of 3.5 percent of
their annual payroll on employee training.
Who's responsible for training? Companies and
employees are: employees for wanting to improve performance,
requesting assistance, guidance and self-development; companies for
stimulating, encouraging and assisting their employees and also for
providing the time and money for training.
Training should be practical and fit the company
mission. It must make sense to the employee and needs to be applied
as soon as possible before its value and excitement levels diminish.
Everyone ought to understand it so that all the parts can be
For employees, training reawakens untapped
potential and releases a pool of energy that isn't being utilized.
It's an incentive for employees building skills and adding
knowledge. They're excited to contribute more to your company
because you have invested your time, expense and respect toward
No company can guarantee employ-ment, but it can
guarantee employability. A well-trained staff works harder and
smarter. When people learn and are being challenged, they're on fire
and feel part of their company.
You don't need a big training budget to get
results. You can go in-house or outside to get the training your
emp-loyees need. If you use in-house training, job rotation and
cross training increases versatility and protects your productivity
during vacation and sick leave. For a couple hundred dollars, you
can send your employees to a high-quality seminar that gets them
excited and makes them feel like they have a future. Save money by
training at your own facility. If you go to an outside trainer,
beware of fly-by-night promises that seem too good to be true,
including promises of taking your least-productive employee and
making them leaders in six hours.
Everyone needs it. New employees need training
most, but don't forget your veterans for whom it can serve as a
refresher course. Don't be shy about asking your employees what they
need to do a better job and what other jobs they would like to
Training is never a substitute for compensation,
security, promotion or advancement. It's the icing on the
employment-package cake that can make a huge difference in the
quality of people you hire. It is not a cure-all for a company's
problems. It doesn't replace weak or abusive leadership. Many
companies face organizational, structural, and or cultural issues
that transcend the help that a training program can give
The two objectives of training are simply: 1)
ensuring that all employees are adequately trained to perform their
present duties; and 2) developing and preparing those who qualify
for promotions and advancement.
Training will make a significant contribution to
the overall success, stability and long-term profitability of your
company. Isn't that what you really want?
Dave Benak was the training officer for
Consolidated Freightways for 33 years. He teaches leadership,
management and supervision at Clark College and owns and operates
"Training Pays," a training and development company with clients up
and down the West Coast. He can be reached at (360) 944-7571 or