Training and Development: the Why & the How

Continued education and training in the digital age is of paramount importance if you want your business to remain competitive. What is the the ideal strategy for investing in continued education and certification programs for your employees? Let’s start with some inspiration from the latest industry average statistics.

In total, companies in the United States spent $90.6 billion in all training expenses in 2017, an over 32% increase from 2016 [1]. When you flesh out how much that is per beneficiary, you’re looking at over $1,000 per trained employee. To be transparent that number includes initial training costs for employees to perform their first role within a company, and we are more focused on the continued education and employee development aspect of training, but we argue that this number distilled down to highlight exclusively certification and training of existing employees is still alarming.

This data hails from a survey conducted on a representative sample of companies in the US. The companies surveyed are all sizes and operate in all industries. When asked what these funds went to exactly, a hefty percentage of them attributed their increased training expenditures to new tools and technologies; this is definitely an improvement! Another large group simply increased the number of individuals who they included in these programs. We argue that this is also a huge step forward.

The Why

As product and service oriented companies, we all owe it to our customers to be the best at operating the tools we need to perform the best job for them. This is important for when you are competing to win over a new customer, but it is just as important when they sign on with you, because in this world of service delivery, those customers are now trusting your team to deliver the quality you promised. Continuous team training assures this in two ways — first, highly trained teams perform quality, cutting edge work. Second, overwhelmingly organizational behavior studies tell us that a well-trained team is a confident and happy team, and a happy team is a productive team.

The Roadblocks

As B2B solution providers, we also owe it to our customers to stay current on relevant technologies, because our job is to serve them so that they can serve their end users. Increasing our exposure to and understanding of new tools as they emerge will only improve their overall efficiency and could mean cost savings for us, for them, and for their end users.

Back to the survey, the company leaders surveyed who did not attribute their increased training expense to new technologies or more beneficiaries attributed their increased training budget to something we all know well — increased mandatory compliance requirements. As a cybersecurity powerhouse, Ruvos is no stranger to compliance. Sometimes, the burden of compliance and regulatory training can take over the resources budgeted to new, fun, exciting, sexy training; we constantly struggle with this balance.

Any company who deals in some form of regulatory compliance in their industry realizes the importance of that training, and they will therefore acquiesce in it. How is a company expected to have any time or resources left over when there is such a high burden of compliance in their industry? As an executive in charge of making these decisions, you have to remember that continued team training and development for exciting new tools and technologies is just that — a continued effort; current obligations and training to upkeep functioning work processes should take priority. Your company should consider these efforts once those obligations are tended to and resources become available.

The How

Let’s Talk Numbers

How many resources should I be investing in training, development, and continued education for my team?

There is no magic one-size-fits-all-companies dollar amount of how much to invest in developing your team. Various expert sources recommend anywhere between 2–5% of your company’s budget, but even this will depend on other factors your company is experiencing that year. Additionally, you can expect this number to fluctuate. What is important is not ignoring it as a line item altogether.

A common trap that companies fall into is framing their thinking around this concept by asking, “what if I invest all these resources into training my employees and then they leave?”

What executives should be asking themselves is, “What if I don’t invest resources into training my employees and they stay?”

As far as making room in the budget goes, you won’t have to make much. The exams for certifications in the technology solutions industry– in topics like developing in cloud environments, CompTIA+ for help desk technicians, Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) for security professionals– will not break a company’s bank; the exams only cost up to a few hundred dollars.

At Ruvos, we have always taken training and development of our team members seriously. In the last 14 years, we have never turned down an employee who has come to us wanting to learn a new technology, attend a training or seminar, or get certified in a tool that they use. When we introduce a new R&D training opportunity, the problem is never finding someone who wants to participate in it. For executives who read this and feel this same sentiment about their company, this is a good sign that your team is dedicated — you should encourage this dedication every chance you get.

The hurdles we usually face are figuring out in what order to grant our eager employees’ requests and how to allot the training so that continuity of service is not interrupted. Prioritization can be justified by job function, tenure, or other factors. Staff will feel rewarded and fulfilled by the opportunity to develop themselves and the chance to be utilized as an expert in a specific tool or technology.

As far as ensuring your continuity of service is not interrupted, make sure to reinforce the positions that will be out at training with relevant backup team members and inform your customers that trainings are taking place. So long as you do not violate any SLAs, most customers in the B2B solutions provider environment will appreciate your communication with them and your interest in providing the best possible service.

The Approach

What are some creative ways to approach training for a company that does not have the funds to spare on traditional training methods?

A great way to build up the strengths of your team without expending funds in the traditional sense is a cross training mentorship program. This practice of pairing employees up with individuals from outside their immediate functional group exposes them to that team’s processes, needs, approaches, skills, and perspective. We say that this avoids expending funds in the traditional sense, because though this does not call for opening the check book, it does count against time that the team member could be spending being productive or billing hours in his or her own role. For this reason in particular, we find it beneficial to employ this strategy when a team member is going through cycles of lower activity or when they are on the bench between projects.

During this method, at first there will be a dip in productivity from both parties while the mentoring team member will inevitably slow down her work to hold the learning team member’s hand; However, what we typically see is an increase in growth and productivity from both parties after a short time (above pre-cross training levels) when the learner and the mentor grasp each others’ perspectives, and they can bridge the gaps between their functional areas.

We see gains with this method specifically when we pair team members into small groups — a maximum of three — from adjacent teams. It does not prove as fruitful to cross train employees who do not have to collaborate on work as it stands, and the same goes for employees who do not share a fundamental understanding of each others’ work.

The moral of the story is that training and development is crucial for keeping a competitive advantage, as long as you structure it in a way that is sustainable and that does not conflict with your continuity of service. These practices have gotten us through peaks and valleys in business, but after many years of practice, we’re still learning too.

Have ideas of your own about training and development of your team? We would love to hear them! Let’s get the conversation going @ThisIsRuvos

Complexity Simplified | Tallahassee, FL. |