Staff training and reskilling: too important not to invest in it

staff training and reskilling

For a company, investing in staff training and reskilling is an aspect that requires foresight and trust in its employees.

It is sometimes thought that investing in training can be a waste of money, especially in a flexible job market where the employee has more opportunities to change companies, today more than yesterday. But if this implies short-term savings, what if our employees (in whom we don’t invest) decide to stay?

Successful companies recognize the importance their resources play in achieving their goals. In this sense, the implementation of an adequate training plan aims to bridge the gap between what people know or are able to do and what they should know or be able to do to perform their daily work with the expertise required.

“Management will recognize the need for training when it realizes that people are an asset and not an expense” – William Scherkenbach

Globalization and especially the evolution of digital technologies are increasing competition in the market in an increasingly frenetic way, so it becomes essential, if not vital, to train your staff by adapting them to present and future needs.

Glenda Quintini, a OECD economist, recently published a paper on the concept of skills retraining (1):

“It is not just a means of learning, but rather learning in the service of an outcome, which is usually the transition to a new job or the ability to successfully take on new tasks.”

As such, reskilling refers not only to learning specific technical skills, but also to the acquisition of key soft skills such as adaptability, communication, collaboration and creativity.

A recent article from the Harvard Business Review (2) underlined the importance of training staff to adapt skills to new technological and business scenarios. In fact, in 2019, the Commission on the Future of Work of the International Labor Organization stated that:

“Today’s skills will not match tomorrow’s jobs, and newly acquired skills could quickly become obsolete.”

Therefore, this update will no longer be only desirable, but a real necessity.

Invest in training

How much are companies investing in the staff training and reskilling? In this regard, there are discordant numbers.

According to the World Economic Forum and the Boston Consulting Group, the cost of reskilling in the United States in 2019 was approximately $ 24,800 per person. On the other hand, while some companies are leading the way, Deloitte reports that only 17% of companies have made “significant investments” in retraining initiatives (2).

Based on my personal experience, there is no doubt that training has different importance depending on the contexts in which you operate. For example, it is much easier to find training opportunities in corporations and highly structured companies, in which continuous training is an essential element for the medium-long term strategy. Despite this, it depends a lot on the culture in which the employee is working. In fact, even in structured companies, poor resource planning and poor internal organization can lead to consider staff training as not a priority compared to normal daily activities.

Unfortunately, this is even more true for SMEs, which often have limited budget and more focused on the “here and now” than on tomorrow.

Importance of a training plan

After gaps are identified to be filled, it is essential to proceed through the implementation of a staff training plan. These plans provide a roadmap for identifying critical training requirements for employees in each business area. Furthermore, each plan should be the result of a strategic planning process and should provide a mechanism to ensure that the training develops the required business capabilities and helps staff make a positive contribution to the success of the company.

How to train and reskill?

I hear, and I forget.

I see, and I remember.

I do, and I understand.

Chinese Proverb

According to Quintini (2), there are three main ways in which reskilling can take place:

  1. formal learning, which means to return to university or a training institution;
  2. non-formal learning, which is the learning activity organized by an external trainer or an employer that does not lead to a recognized qualification or certificate;
  3. informal learning, which involves learning from colleagues and supervisors or even during leisure activities.

Moreover, according to Westcott (3), it’s possible to detail the offers in the following ways:

  1. self-directed learning: the student learns without an instructor and at his own pace. This can be done through various media such as books, asynchronous e-learning courses, videos, etc.;
  2. lectures and seminars: a one-way transmission of information from an instructor to a student, in both face-to-face and electronic formats;
  3. discussions: students share their points of view in an unrestricted environment;
  4. experiential learning: the goal is to experience the phenomena encountered in a real working environment through examples, games, simulations, role-playing games;
  5. coaching: used individually or in small groups, it consists in providing training and advice on specific aspects or skills of work to improve individual performance;
  6. distance learning: today it is possible to take advantage of the use of digital platforms without the need to travel. This greatly reduces the associated indirect costs and gives the ability to access training to virtual teams distributed on a global scale;
  7. training on the job: normally for personnel who have just been hired or transferred to a new job;
  8. blended: consists of a mix of the above methods. Normally this type of training guarantees a higher level of involvement, improves learning and reduces costs. Nonetheless, a greater level of coordination and monitoring of progress is needed.   

The choice of the format and training method that best suited to the employee or company depends on the objective and context in which it operates. For example, in the current economic crisis, speed, accessibility, and a clear path to employment are the most pressing factors for many workers, meaning short, informal learning experiences are likely to be the most effective. However, in a recovering economy, one can appreciate the value and prestige of a degree, in which case a formal learning experience would be best.

In any case, it is important to emphasize the importance that distance learning has been covering especially in recent months. How many of us had attended a webinar event prior to the COVID-19 confinement? And which of us hasn’t attended at least one webinar now? Many feedbacks in this sense have highlighted how solutions of this type are viewed with much less skepticism now than just a few months ago. Furthermore, their effectiveness is considered on a par if not in some cases higher than that of the presence training. Obviously, the format should not be confused with the content. However, what is important to emphasize is that e-learning represents a valid support for the goal of skills retraining.

In addition to the webinar, the network offers a second solution, this time asynchronous: the so-called Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs. In this case, the professional has the possibility to access a platform and therefore the training contents which can be a mix of text, links, images, tables, videos, quizzes, just to name the most common. This mix, in addition to making the offer more interactive, also has the advantage of improving the retention of learning according to many studies on the subject.

Evaluate and select training material and resources

“Management has a tendency to believe that once staff have completed training, they have been trained” – Howard and Shelley Gitlow

While many companies are able to identify skill gaps and implement an appropriate training plan, they still do not devote enough resources to evaluate and select the required material. This can happen for the following reasons:

  • they don’t know how;
  • they don’t have a budget;
  • it requires dedicated resources;
  • if purchased, it is assumed that the high cost of training automatically makes it of a high level;
  • if developed in house, it is thought to be necessarily of quality;
  • they use existing material with some minor modifications.

Where to start?

Recognizing the importance of training and reskilling is a vital step for companies in a highly interconnected and competitive global market, in which the opportunities offered by new digital technologies are now open to everyone, regardless of rank, gender and social status. Once the appropriate financial resources have been made available, the second step will therefore be to invest them in the skills and resources most appropriate to our objectives.

In this scenario, Accialini Training & Consulting is able to support Management in the reskilling process for manufacturing companies. The training offered covers different topics and is provided in different formats.

We focus on the following main topics:

  • Industry 4.0: what impact on work? What are the technologies to focus on?
  • New Product Development: which structured processes to develop new products and new processes are the most suitable for our company? How to reduce the risks of failure?
  • Innovation Management: how to implement a business system that stimulates creativity and encourages innovation?
  • Manufacturing Capability Management: how to get the most out of our current resources, and which future technologies are worth investing in?

We use the following main formats:

  • Face to face training: in the classroom, at the company, preferably in contact with the production site. For some paths involving role playing and simulations, this format is necessary;
  • Distance training:
    • Virtual Classes: via webinar;
    • MOOCs: we use our proprietary platform www.skills4i.com

Contact us to discuss your needs in detail.

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References

3) The Certified Six Sigma Black Belt Handbook, Third Edition, T.M. Kubiak and Donald W Benbow, Pearson