HR 1:“What if we train employees and they leave?”
HR 2: “What if we don’t and they stay?”
As this classic HR conundrum demonstrates, if you want your company to succeed, then you need to invest in your people.
But what if you invest and they go elsewhere? To a (yikes!) competitor?
Well, we first need to accept that this is a strong likelihood. After all, reports show that only half of employed Millennials – who will soon account for the vast majority of the workforce – intend to stay in their current jobs after a year.
But businesses can’t rely on being able to weed out who’s loyal and who’s got itchy feet. Nope. They need to think differently about training and development initiatives.
In short, educational initiatives need to be part of a business’ staff retention strategy and wholly aligned with its growth ambitions.
Let’s consider the differences between training and development, and how both can have a positive impact on staff, customers, and a company’s overall growth.
Training & Development. Same But Different?
Training and development have long been placed together as a single phenomenon. However, there's a big misconception in need of clarification – they aren’t one and the same thing.
In a nutshell, employee training is generally a short term, company-focused necessity; while development is more about putting measures in place to realize an individual employee’s longer term ambitions.
For example, training tends to be task-focused – such as how to use a particular piece of software; or a refresher on how to handle call escalation. It’s about giving employees particular skills that they’ll need on a daily basis – to carry out the job they’ve been hired for in the most effective way possible. It’s also usually an in-house effort – depending on the level of depth and specificity needed – and can also be a module or part of a program to help someone advance.
Development, however, is usually a program of career advancement – created and tailored to both the individual employee’s ambitions and the needs of the company itself. Development may take place over several months or years in some cases. It may lead to a specific external qualification – such as an Associate in Project Management (APM) or PRINCE2 accreditation – or it may be a tiered set of development goals that are continually delivered and assessed: often by an external party rather than the company itself.
Employee-Focused Training and Development
While the above definitions demonstrate the purposes of both training and development, it’s equally crucial to understand their importance. In terms of specific benefits, both have a much broader role to play.
Retains Staff & Increases Engagement
The more employees connect with their company – and the more valued they feel as employees – the greater the affinity they feel for their employer. In fact, reports show that 94% of employees would stay at a company longer if it invested in helping them learn. You really can’t argue with stats that high.
It also stands to reason that the more clarity and purpose an employee has, the better engaged they are with the business. And the more engaged they are, the more they can see how their role fits into the wider scheme of things.
In this way engagement is synonymous with an increase in productivity. After all, the more someone cares, the more effort they’re likely to put in.
But with just 29% of Millennials engaged at work (according to Gallup), it’s clear more needs to be done proactively.
Provides Consistency & Benchmarks Employee Skills
In a world where individuality is overtly embraced, a consistent approach to training and development may sound counter-intuitive at best – or a recipe for blandness at worst.
However, giving employees a set of behaviors, actions, and guidelines to follow gives everyone concerned a focus – a set of standards to uphold. It helps them know what’s expected of them – including what customers expect from the business as a whole.
When there’s a tangible way of measuring an individual employee’s skills, it becomes a lot easier to both understand the progress they’re making. It enables companies to gauge employee competence levels, and to ensure they’re given opportunities to fill in any gaps in their current learning and job experience.
Many larger businesses will use an enterprise LMS – as part of their assessment and delivery solution – which helps to track progress and record outcomes.
However, from an employee’s viewpoint, training and development gives them a skills roadmap – somewhere to move from and to – in their personal quest to become better at their jobs and, ultimately, advance their careers. It also helps them address personal strengths and weaknesses; information that can ultimately be fed into the wider HR skills matrix to give an overall picture of what skills are already in-house or not as the case may be.
Increases Productivity, Profitability, & Customer Satisfaction
With new skills and a fresh focus on the way forward, employee training and development initiatives are much more likely to encourage productivity. When employees have more skills, the better they become at their jobs – which in turn has a positive impact on customer satisfaction and therefore company revenues.
Customer-Based Training and Development
However, customer satisfaction comes in different guises. Depending on a business’ sector, the type of product and services being sold, and the overall sophistication of the offering itself, often customers themselves are likely to receive some form of training or development.
This is common among businesses with a distribution or partner network, for example, where the manufacturer – whether they’re selling industrial machinery, construction equipment, an advanced piece of software, or something else that requires advanced knowledge – routinely delivers insights and product updates to them: often through in-house training, or, increasingly, via eLearning platforms.
Let’s consider the main advantages of customer-based training and development.
Enhances Product Value
The benefits of customer training and development for vendors are clear. Essentially, initiatives like these help customers and partners get a better understanding of their products and services. That’s a given.
As a result, they learn how to use the product’s features to optimum effect, helping them get more value from the offering itself – and in turn firmly embedding its usage within the customer’s day-to-day working environment.
Increases Customer Satisfaction
A thorough understanding of how something works – and having the help and support of the vendor who can walk them through more advanced features – undoubtedly enhances the customer experience. When users can clearly see how something works at each touchpoint, and have an in-depth working knowledge of a solution, the easier it becomes to use.
But mastery is an ongoing endeavor, which is why providing different levels of training can also help drive longer term – and therefore continued – use of a product or service. This can also boost individual users’ skillsets; particularly when the solution itself is widely used by other companies.
Take Salesforce, for example. Administrators able to attain a certain level of proficiency in using this brand name CRM can quite easily find a role requiring the same experience – in any number of organizations.
When the path to customer success is clear, and there are continued training and development programs created to address new features and uses, the better the customer retention rate becomes and the lower the churn rate.
With a comprehensive customer training program in place, the more competent and independent users of all kinds become. This in turns alleviates the need for large vendor support teams, leads to easier onboarding, creates better awareness and appetite for up-sell opportunities, and also improves word-of-mouth marketing.
After all, happy customers are the best advocates any business can have. And when word spreads, the more prospects are referred – which means new customers and increased profits.
Overall, It’s clear that without the skills to do a job, employees will get left behind. And if employees are unable to perform tasks easily, the entire business will suffer. Therefore, to keep things ticking over, training serves a very important purpose.
But if training is ‘the minutes’ on a clock, then development is ‘the hours’. As mentioned, development has a longer-term impact than training – and is born out of a need to inspire as well as educate.
Development also has a more strategic edge, is usually much more grounded in theory and adopting a success-driven mindset, and is often geared towards helping users – be they employees, distributors, or customers – craft their own approach rather than giving them a specific single outcome.
In both cases, guided autonomy is what works best. Facilitating this in any learning initiative is a surefire way to foster training-led growth.
Here at Raven 360, we offer a full range of employee and customer-focused training and development programs. Our eLearning and LMS solutions can be tailored to individual user needs at scale – helping learning and HR professionals deliver a consistent, on-brand education experience to their growing teams: anywhere in the world. To find out more, contact us on 1-508-786-0500.