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Training has been at the forefront of recent news reports as productivity and skills shortages become an increasingly pressing problem for the UK economy in the shadow of Brexit.
A recent OECD report on the UK’s productivity called for the UK to spend more on training instead of cutting corporation tax and a TUC report published at the end of last year showed just one in three workers say their employer offers regular training opportunities.
Workingmums.co.uk’s annual survey shows that figure is likely to be higher for those who work flexibly, particularly part-time workers, despite legislation that protects their rights.
Workingmums.co.uk’s work with leading employers shows how developing people’s potential has become a vital attraction and retention tool with some of the winners of its Top Employer Awards putting a big emphasis on training, including Genie Ventures which runs its own Genie Academy.
Roberta Cox, interim general manager at training provider STL, says it is vital that employers ensure that people get the right type and level of training. She says some send their staff on training courses without checking whether it is the right course for them. “Some people don’t even know why they are there and some say they don’t use the application they are being trained for. It is imperative that employers ensure that their employees get the right training. It should not be a tick box exercise,” she says.
STL works with employers to tailor training to their needs. Roberta says it is about getting the right balance between individual employees’ need for personal development and business needs.
Communication with employees about the organisation’s needs – giving them the bigger picture about growth and development of the organisation – and their own personal objectives is therefore vital. “A lot of employees do not have access to the bigger picture and it is not always obvious,” says Roberta.
She adds that there are significant benefits to be had if employers get training right. “Done right training can be very motivating and increase engagement and commitment. It shows the employer is interested in investing in their people and can inspire them to do their job better,” she states.
She adds that while online training can be useful, STL believes face to face works best with trainers travelling to sites to deliver courses. “We believe in face to face training and have seen the proof,” she says. “Delegates get so much more being immersed for a day.”
STL’s training is delivered on site to any location and can be for a day, several days or in shorter two-hour sessions. They even offer one to one training in people’s homes, although this is costly.
STL do a lot of training in Microsoft applications and they provide an introduction to management course , but they also offer training in soft skills such as time management and stress management. “Investing in soft skills and emotional intelligence really pays off,” says Roberta. “It helps build resilience. From my work in professional development training I can see that the more emotionally intelligent people are the better their results at work. Soft skills are important. You can only automate so much. Really good customer service, for instance, is all about relationships.”
She notes that, although training in practical application skills still accounts for most of the training STL offers, there has been a noticeable increase in the demand for soft skills training.
As well as recognising the retention benefits of developing staff, STL as an employer is keen to ensure that the workload on its trainers is sustainable and offers room for development.
The company’s full-time in-house trainers [they also use regular freelances] never do five days’ training a week. “It is just not sustainable,” says Roberta, adding that trainers need time to develop their skills. The four-day training policy has meant they have been able to retain staff, she says. “It’s a very happy, collaborative environment with a strong sense of being part of a team.”