Training and education requires two of a business’s biggest assets: time and money. For many managers and company owners, it can be easy to look at these as hard costs without direct and tangible benefits.
But studies show otherwise. Investing in all types of training — both for yourself and your employees — pays in multiple ways.
First, let’s start with everyone’s favorite question: What’s in it for me?
Even if you have achieved the highest position possible — CEO or company owner — it’s important to stay current. Someone who graduated with an MBA 20 years ago cannot rest on that education in today’s business environment. No, basic business principles haven’t changed. But virtually everything else has.
Today’s sign and visual communications companies are faced with a myriad of shifts: a new understanding of the importance of sign by end users; new challenges with regulations and codes; and new opportunities from diverse lines of business. What you learned when you started is no longer how business is done.
The same is true of every position throughout your company. Skills that were not necessary a decade ago now are a daily requirement. Programs and processes that were in their infancy are now standard procedure.
Training for company executives can lead to better leadership. It can mean better coaching for employees as well as leading your company throughout dynamic shifts in the business world.
Investing in training also can help your employees — and your customers. Research by Professor Steven Schmidt of East Carolina University found that those who work directly with customers say they benefit more from training. They feel more confident in using the knowledge gained to better serve their customers, and to deal with customer complaints.
Note: This is not just customer-oriented training for customer service representatives. The same applies throughout. A sales person who is more versed in print standards can better explain projects to customers. A graphic designer who understands more about new applications can deliver projects that “wow” end users. A project manager who knows more about the latest tools and software can keep that project on track.
It is money well spent. A study by the Society for Human Resource Management showed that employee development is one of the top reasons employees voluntarily leave one job for another. That may mean they perceive the new employer offers more training possibilities — or that they are unhappy with the training (or lack thereof) offered at their current position.
That’s an interesting twist since one of the fears occasionally expressed with employee training is that the employee will use those new skills to go somewhere else. It might just be that the opposite is true. And maybe they will use those new skills to seek another opportunity — within your company.
Given how challenging it is to find qualified employees, why not try to keep the ones you have?
Then there’s the matter of productivity. Some studies have shown that training improves employee productivity by as much as 230 percent.
Trained employees can better support business goals, whether that involves learning more about a new potential business line, or cross training to improve overall productivity.
Finally, there is the issue of finding qualified employees. While workforce development is a challenge for many in our industry, employers across business sectors report that new hires do not have the skills needed to do the job, especially in communication and innovative thinking. If you want them to have those skills, an investment may be required.
Which brings us back to that beginning dilemma of time and money. Is all training equal? Certainly not in terms of cost or the time away from the job. But it’s not equal in results, either.
Online learning certainly has its place. It can offer a relatively simple way to train a mass number of employees on fairly easy material. It can be a good refresher on workplace safety, for instance. Other types of online learning can boost the skills of a single employee while offering exercises to show that the employee truly is learning the material.
That said, there is a benefit to in-person learning that is unmatched. In-person training offers opportunities to dive more deeply into the material as well as to have the questions answered. It offers an ability to receive guidance from industry experts — the kind that you couldn’t afford to get to your company.
Richard Poyant, president of Poyant Signs, spends about 70 percent of his time at ISA International Sign Expo in educational events. He’s built continuing relationships with presenters and arranged site visits between his company and theirs to further learning. He’s taken what he’s learned and improved business processes at his company.
“One of the biggest value-adds of experiencing training and education at ISA Sign Expo is being in a room with other folks who share their experiences with the group and the training leader,” he said. “Being in the same industry makes it very relatable and reinforces the learning process. You can’t experience that impact in any other learning environment.”