Our Business Development Director Adrian talks about training and it’s importance to business success.
As someone who grew up in the England of the 1970’s I’m no stranger to a decent quote or two. At least a couple of times a week, if not each morning, the average 70’s schoolkid could rely upon a member of the school’s staff to stand up and deliver a decent five-minute assembly based around a wise word or two from the past.
One that stuck with me was this classic: Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he can feed himself for a lifetime.
Not exactly a snappy little phrase that would fit well on a tee shirt but nowhere is this principle more true than in business.
Many of those who run their own businesses started up on their own, or with only the help of a spouse or family members when things got too much for one person to cope with. Adding staff for the first time is often a big step for self-employed sole traders and a watershed in their growth.
Taking on “a bit of help” means showing someone else what to do and with that comes the fear that they might not be doing quite as good a job as you could yourself. This insecurity is borne out of the same drive to be great that allows people to start and grow businesses in the first place. If it continues unchecked though, it creates that scourge of small businesses, the micromanaging owner!
Regrettably it is an unshakeable truth that people learn by their mistakes. If they aren’t given the freedom to fail, they aren’t given the opportunity to learn. The trouble is, of course, that a business cannot allow people to learn by letting down customers and damaging the business’s reputation. This is only exaggerated further by the spotlight that Social Media can place on every failure, and the damage that can be caused by one really bad review.
Hardly any wonder then that many business owners spend their time checking and supervising at a transactional level, while being torn by the conflicting fear of errors and the frustration that “these guys just can’t seem to think for themselves!”. As an independent contractor I have seen businesses with as many as a hundred staff and owners who are still trying to supervise every order, quality check every job or read every email.
Whilst it is often difficult to let go of the day to day and focus on running your business in the longer term ( working on it, not in it as the cliché has it), there is one thing that can help break this circle and that, of course, is training.
In order to be sure that people are competent to fulfil their responsibilities you can focus on recruiting experienced people. You will then have people who know how to do a job exactly how they did it when they worked somewhere else. Better though, to recruit people who have useful experience and good interpersonal skills and then teach them how to do the job the way you want it to be done.
As with many things in business life, finding a good training provider is really difficult. But if you want to be confident that your people are capable and competent training is the way forward, and often training internally can simply take up too much time. Also being good at doing a job doesn’t always make you great at showing someone else how to do it. Inevitably
this means finding someone who is good at training, but also has the same basic values as you do.
When looking for a training provider its worth making one big distinction to start with. There are two basic types of training, and no I don’t mean rubbish and not rubbish! The two types are Functional Skills and Soft Skills training. Functional skills training imparts specific skills around an activity, for example safely depolluting an End of Life Vehicle. Soft Skills training on the other hand is about interpersonal and communication behaviours, team working and dealing with people.
Both of these areas can be crucial to businesses. Someone needs to know how to do a job to do it all, but they need to have a broader set of personal skills to do a job well. This varies with the type of job, level of supervision etc. etc.
For functional skills it’s reasonable to say that accredited courses are a must, particularly where safety at work is involved. Soft skills training is much more about what you want to achieve as the manager of a business or operation and how a training provider fits with your own approach and thinking.
Some businesses see training as something that they ought to be seen to be doing. For others it’s a basic component of running a company for growth. In the most successful companies in the world it’s as much a part of the culture as sales, production or finance.
For some the big issue is cost and of course, if you pick a poor provider whose message doesn’t fit yours then the training will have little value. But think about this; if an adult staff member on minimum wage becomes 5% more productive as a result of training then they will deliver around 100 hours more work per year which is almost £800 worth!
If training helps your business grow and it very often does, it’s just another kind of investment. For many businesses, wages are one of the biggest costs on their books so investing in training would seem to be, as the phrase has it, a no-brainer. For a business owner the ability to delegate responsibility is key to freeing up their time to work on growth so investing in skilling your people could easily be seen in the same light as investing in advertising or developing a website.
All in all, the ongoing training of staff in areas relevant to their responsibilities is a key part of business success. There are plenty of good providers out there if you look for them and if you are talking to a training provider who doesn’t inspire you with confidence step back and look for another… remember; there are plenty more fish in the sea!
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