Training can simply be defined as activity leading to skilled behaviour. It is very common to hear owners of start-up businesses talk about financial capital as the first most important hurdle to overcome. They’ll muster every energy to appeal to government, agencies, NGOs and any benevolent organisation to help in this direction.
The irony of the situation is, to many of these businesses and even the well-established ones, capital as it were comes in the form of money. After all, ‘money answereth all things’. They forget the most important asset of any business that holds promise is its human capital.
It is therefore not surprising to come across many business leaders who will not mention the quality of their human resource in a business conversation that may last for over one hour.
The song you hear is money and money. “It’s a scarce commodity you know,” they say.
A lot of studies have shown that businesses which start with good financial capital but with less qualified personnel tend to collapse or grow at a snail’s pace. The converse is also true. Most multi-national businesses spend a fortune on training their human resource. Although their overheads might be much higher, they still compete favourably because their well-trained staff will always apply their skill to turn the business’ fortunes around.
I sit on interview panels and come across young, brilliant and energetic young men and women who show every passion to put their shoulders behind the wheels of work. While technical skill is important, it is those who are willing to fit into the organisational culture, and have the passion and the energy to drive growth, who are most fit for the job. No single organisation has all the sets of technical skills they require taught in the confines of one institution, hence the need for additional and continuous training.
Many business owners have also walked up to me complaining about their teams not working with the set of skills acquired from training they gave them. A deeper conversation more often than not reveals that teams are bundled into training programmes which have little bearing on what they do on a daily basis. Most of these training programmes are sponsored, which is seen as opportunity to obtain ‘free’ training.
For instance, the reason why the issue on food-poisoning from the hospitality industry persists and bad quality products still sits on our shelves every day, is because most hospitality operators do not see staff training a priority. After all, they just come to cook and serve customers. They mistakenly take surveillance visits by regulatory authorities as training.
Even where there are government-sponsored programmes through relevant institutions like COTVET in Ghana, it takes an effort to convince business owners to release their teams for training. While some come in late, others are called from the lecture rooms to report for work. Obviously there’s something not right about the understanding of the entire training and development programme by most businesses owners.
Training Needs Assessment
Training doesn’t just happen. It is a process that begins with an assessment of your training needs. Hence, every business – no matter its size – should begin with its aims and objectives, from which a policy is carved. All other activities will fall into place in deployment of the policy, including training.
So with a training needs assessment, a business is able to broadly come up with skill areas needed for business growth and success. The next thing to do is map each individual of your team to the required skill in that department, to ascertain whether for a particular skill they need a basic appreciation, working knowledge, or be fully operational; or they should have world-class knowledge.
If from this exercise the employee should be fully operational in a skill, but from the assessment he has only working knowledge, a gap has been created that then needs to closed. Send that person on a relevant training programme to move him/her from working knowledge to fully operational. There are several instances where a coaching program or an on-the-job training is all that is required to bridge the gap.
In the parable of the five loaves of bread and two fishes, Jesus had a certain posture when his disciples beseeched him to send the people away to the neighbouring towns and villages to look for food. He asked them to bring whatever they had. They brought five loaves of bread and two fishes. He blessed and multiplied them to the satisfaction of all. What lessons can we draw from this miracle? Start with what you have. The last thing SMEs think about is a training budget. It seldom comes up, and if it does it warms the bottom spot.
A hotel manager once told me, when we proposed training for his staff, that they’ll leave his hotel and look for bigger offers once they have the certificates. I will discuss retention of employees another time, but that is surely the wrong way to look at it.
This same team are likely to collapse the entire investment with a single case of food-poisoning. There have been other instances when business managers have postponed training on quality and food safety management because, to them, allocating a percentage of their profits to train employees was a waste of resources. It will take only one public recall to wipe out your business from the face of the business world.
So plan ahead. Conduct your training needs assessment within the current year and plan to execute it the following year. Ensure that training features prominently in your budget and make it a top priority. Look for sponsored training programmes by all means, but if training for very important set of skills is not being offered for ‘free’, fall on the allocated resource and have the training done.
Benefits of training
Training brings along several benefits. The business environment keeps evolving and there are several technological advancements in the business space. Training your employees will keep your business abreast with current trends.
Training helps your business stay ahead of competition. Keeping your employees at the same knowledge level will kill your business. Whie competition has moved on with new and better ways of doing things, your business will be busily moving backwards with information that is stale and has no place in your type of business environment.
Training and development advances employee skills, provides an incentive to learn, increases job satisfaction levels, and provides internal promotion opportunities. It is important to note that money does not work on its own; you need well-trained personnel to transform your money into a great business.
Johnson Opoku-Boateng is the Executive Director & Lead Consultant, QA CONSULT (Consultants and Trainers in Quality/Safety Management, Manufacturing Excellence and Food Safety) and can be reached on +233209996002, email: firstname.lastname@example.org