Learning & Development, Talent

Committing to Continuing Employee Education

by Kristin Pine, Director of Training & Education for Peabody Properties, Inc.

Almost every organization—regardless of industry—shares a similar greatest asset:  their workforce.  In fact, for many organizations their human capital is what differentiates them from their competition.  The right talent will constantly hit the points your organization is striving for—whether through having meaningful and productive conversations with clients, making good decisions that benefit the organization, or contributing to an overall positive work environment. 

training

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Given this, continually reinvesting in this asset is an organizational priority that makes good business sense.  One of the best ways to do so is by encouraging and offering solid continuing education on a variety of topics and utilizing a range of training formats.

Internal Training

One way to offer on-going educational opportunities is through an internal training program.  At the beginning, it’s important for those leading the initiative to start off small, focusing on realistic goals.  Timing and budgetary constraints are most likely the two biggest challenges to overcome when first developing your internal curriculum.  However, it’s important not to completely dismiss an idea based on these issues.  The key to success is to think long term, recognize that it probably cannot happen all at once, and be open to revisiting ideas for implementation at a later date.

Given a wide array of learning styles, it makes sense for an organization to take a blended-learning approach and offer a variety of training formats, such as instructor-led trainings (ILTs), live and/or prerecorded broadcast webinars and podcasts, and hands-on training options.  Implementing mentoring and/or coaching programs is another great way to help fill in the gaps between training opportunities while providing new skill sets that help develop your “coaches” and future leaders for the company.

Organizations need to work smarter, not harder, when implementing an in-house job training program.  Reducing expenses is critically important when first developing your new learning program.  Additionally, give yourself time to allow the return on investment to materialize.  As the program continues, the more money saved in the present will allow for additional programs to be added and introduced in the future.

Low-Cost Training Solutions

Technology offers many cost-friendly solutions.  Virtual training sessions negate the need for reimbursing travel costs and also cut down on lost production hours due to travel time.  Webinars—whether virtual or in-person—offer a low-cost way to train a greater number of people, across a large geographic area, for little money.

Internal talent is another great way to reduce expenses.  Finding that “special someone” within your organization, to lead a class or workshop, will not only save the company money on paying for an instructor, but will produce other positive intangibles.  Remember that internal trainers know the culture, the audience, your company’s background, and the industry—something to which you cannot easily assign a price or value.

Another consideration:  Look for opportunities to have training spaces donated whenever possible, such as a conference room, community room, empty offices, or other facilities that can act as a space conducive to learning.

Engagement Solutions

To keep your audience engaged, especially for a full-day training session, make sure you have a comfortable room available, and schedule several short breaks throughout the day.  Provide great coffee, offer comfort foods for snacking, bring in catering as needed at mealtime, and plan on fun background details, like music during lunch, related games with prizes, and signed “Certificates of Completion.”

Finish with either a paper or online survey as a method of follow-up.  A quality training program depends on valuable and honest feedback from its students in order to grow and enhance your overall program.  Find out what worked, what didn’t and what could be done better.

Finishing touch: Provide a list of recommended materials for further study to help improve material digestion of the subject matter, as well as to enhance the overall educational impact of the experience.

The range of topics that can be addressed in continuing employee education is practically limitless and can be customized to an individual organization.  Find topics that meet the interests of employees, help further your organization’s mission and core values, promote new business, sustain your existing book of business, embrace technology, and help to develop new leaders to name just a few.  Compliance, customer service, greening and sustainability initiatives, and workplace safety are some topics that an organization might decide to focus on, given their short- and long-term goals.

Develop a Recognition Plan

Once your curriculum is determined, it’s important to develop a recognition plan for training completion and achievements.  Recognition plans not only encourage training, but help to identify and foster a culture of lifelong learners who strive for excellence within your organization.

Set educational goals—perhaps across departments or divisions—and recognize when these goals are reached.  Also, make a concerted effort to bring attention to your team members through public events and other media opportunities (i.e., internal newsletters, press releases, or recognition at staff meetings) on recent employee accomplishments.

For organizations that either don’t offer in-house training, or only offer a limited number of classes, be mindful and recognize the value of sending employees to external training opportunities.  By offering tuition reimbursement as part of your company benefits, or an annual educational allotment awarded to every employee, an organization can create a plan of funding allocated toward improving their existing workforce year after year.

Training programs are also a great recruitment tool—especially for attracting high-potential employees who are perceived as “self-starters” interested in personal growth and professional development. Where in other organizations, employees might have to practically beg for training, a robust in-house training program helps to attract the right kind of employees for an organization firmly establishing its reputation as an “employer of choice.”

Keeping a strong focus on continuing education acts as a great retention tool.  Employees will understand that there is a path toward future growth and opportunities for success at their organization due in large part through the benefit of training.  Continuing education becomes the vehicle for employers to reach these opportunities.

Bottom Line

By developing training that meets the needs of your team members, an organization can go beyond reinforcing goals and truly demonstrate their commitment to professional development and career growth while, in turn, identifying your real “superstars”—your high-performers and self-starters who are hungry to learn and grow.

A commitment to continuing education cultivates an infectious environment that encourages others to follow in the footsteps of more experienced associates who act as role models, reap the benefits, and strive for excellence.  Companies with a dedicated commitment to reinvesting in their employees will quickly realize that their greatest assets actually help position the organization for “smart growth” and surpass your competitors in the marketplace.

Kristin PineKristin Pine
is the Director of Training & Education for Peabody Properties, Inc.  She can be reached at kpine@peabodyproperties.com.