The price of replacing employees can be staggering. Some estimates report that employee turnover now costs an average of 2.5 times the employee’s annual salary. For an employee earning $40,000 a year, a departure would cost the corporation a whopping $100,000. That may sound incredible at first, but not after adding the expenses of advertising, recruiting, orienting and training a replacement together with lost productivity and efficiency, revenue, morale and, in some cases, customer loyalty.
So what can a company do to avoid seeing valued employees walk out the door? Offer bigger salaries? More benefits?
Fortunately, such “big ticket” expenditures are not necessarily the top priority to employees. In today’s still uncertain job market, employees are likely to be more interested in job satisfaction and growth. For corporations, that means investing in them—providing employees with tools that will help them improve their job skills and manage their career paths.
Where to Start
Before an organization implements an employee training program, several considerations must be made. First, companies need to understand the goals for the training program and then outline how the program might achieve those goals.
Support from executive staff is also a critical concern, and is only achieved if key leaders are involved from the outset. Executive teams can help select training areas that they consider most important for managers, while managers can do the same for their team members.
Organizations should also evaluate the merits of providing rewards and recognition for course completion. Some organizations offer annual management excellence certifications to individuals who complete several hours—in some cases, up to 60—of specific management courses. Certification demonstrates the managers’ active commitment and efforts toward improving skills that will help them become better managers and in turn, foster a more positive work environment.
Another important factor to be considered when implementing a training program is communication. How will these offerings be made known to employees throughout the company? In this area, using a combination of both “push” and “pull” methods can be very effective. For example, e-mail notifications can be pushed out to let employees know of courses that will be offered in the future. In addition, companies can post upcoming course information on a company Web page to enable individuals to pull relevant training data by region, course, topic or date.
Finally, training experts agree that the best advice when considering a training program to start small, with just one or two priority courses. Then, as demand for more courses grows based on the success of previous offerings, organizations can slowly expand their curriculum to meet employees’ needs while staying within budget.
Programs That Get Attention
So, what types of programs do employees want most? The answer depends on the employee. In general, workers value training that will make a difference in their everyday professional lives. For example, systems training is an essential component of any corporate education program in today’s digital world. Employees must understand how to use e-mail, Lotus Notes and any other technology tools the company has made available. Moreover, when critical software programs are upgraded to provide additional functionality, employees must have a forum for familiarizing themselves with the new software to maximize their use of these tools at work. The same holds true for functional training.
Employees at all levels can also benefit from courses focused on communication, interpersonal skills, diversity awareness and cultural differences. These courses can be offered either online to all employees or in a classroom setting on a group basis. In some cases, it might be advantageous for entire workgroups to receive specialized training. For example, by providing presentation training to a software developers department with high technical proficiency but weaker communications skills, this group could expand its professional proficiencies from simply designing and developing superior software to communicating that information to customers.
Management training is also vital to the success of a company and its employees. In addition to offering traditional management courses that cover such topics as coaching, interviewing and hiring, and handling performance problems, some corporations are now using more innovative vehicles for helping managers hone their skills.
A book-of-the-quarter activity, for example, puts a carefully selected book into the hands of all managers. Some books target technical areas such as information security; others focus on leadership areas such as communication and teamwork. After reading and studying the book, managers can get together at scheduled times for Internet chats or phone conferences to discuss the book with one another and find ways to apply its principles in their jobs. But the learning doesn’t end there; discussions continue in less formal and organized settings, as managers and their teams put key learning into daily practice.
Another innovative leadership offering is the executive boot camp. Offered on an invitation-only basis to senior-level managers, the boot camp is an intense two-day workshop that immerses managers in executive leadership issues, challenges and solutions one or two levels above their current role. It is designed to inspire current managers to think and work differently so they will be ready for career progression into more senior leadership roles in the company. Executives and guest speakers inside and outside the company are included to bring real-life, hands-on learning experiences into the workshop.
Each boot camp is typically open to a very small group of managers—14 at most—to increase the personal learning experience for each participant. Each individual is hand-picked by the executive leadership team to participate in the event. What’s more, the boot camp is not limited to local managers; it is even open to managers at corporate sites around the world. Face to face, managers address global issues together and at the same time increase communication with management teams at different sites. Managers have an opportunity to do work outside of their regular jobs and be exposed to leadership issues that their own executives face.
At the end of the event, the managers are presented a real-time business problem facing the entire organization and are asked to work together to resolve it as though they were the executives leading the organization. By applying lessons learned during their 48-hour, in-depth leadership boot camp, these leaders are more prepared to tackle issues within their own organizations
Investing in Tomorrow
At every level of the corporation, employees recognize ongoing training as a tool that will enable them not only to do their jobs better today but also to improve their skill sets and prepare them for increased job responsibilities in the future.
Moreover, as organizations continue to look for ways to reduce expenses and increase profits, employee retention strategies will remain a priority. Employee training will likely remain at the top of the list of activities and programs designed to help keep workers productive and happy.
Elden Maxwell is director of worldwide training and development at Symantec Corp. Mark Morse is senior human resources generalist at Symantec Corp.