Employee development is not just a buzzword – it can mean the difference between reaching your team targets and returning lacklustre results.
Unwelcome signs such as a slump in sales, employees leaving for rivals or rising customer complaints are hard for any business to deal with. However for HR professionals, directors and managers these can be signs of possible skills gaps, and providing additional staff training could help turn things around.
There are many possible indicators of the need for further staff development, but they can broadly be divided into five categories:
1. What your customers say.
2. What your internal performance metrics tell you.
3. How the business is performing in its market.
4. How the law and industry regulations change the way you work.
5. Your staff recruitment and retention metrics.
Unhappy customers show the way
If customer complaints are up, it is important to take a good look at exactly what it is your customers are saying. If you notice a high volume of complaints about customer service for instance, your employees on the floor may need further training and employee development to support customers on their buying journey. Likewise, if complaints are in regard to staff having insufficient product knowledge, it may be because they are inappropriately prepared to deal with new products.
Drilling down into the causes of complaints can help you identify potential staff training gaps. Filling these gaps with additional and appropriate training is a key solution. It helps maintain happiness in your workplace and this can be a key driver for your team to deliver outstanding service. After all, employees want to be treated with fairness and respect, and your staff can feel frustrated when asked to complete a task that is beyond the limits of their current skill set.
Follow the productivity data trail
Have call-handling times gone up? Have revenues or profits per staff member fallen? Are errors, bugs, recalls or returns increasing? These trends have many causes, so asking further questions of your employees and customers can help reveal if staff training is a factor. Furthermore, looking at your firm’s productivity can help you identify gaps in staff development where some employees may have been given too much responsibility before cultivating the skills required to excel in this area.
Staff training gives you the opportunity to outperform your rivals
Many factors define your competitive advantage, but in a world where products and their features are becoming more commoditised, differentiation often hinges on innovation, research and development (R&D) and superior service levels. Your people are the key to nailing these processes, and this is where expert staff training can help. Ask yourself if your employee’s current suite of skills is helping them stay ahead of marketplace changes. If not, they may need additional employee development.
Are regulations moving the goalpost?
Digital disruption, the smartphone, the global financial crisis and the millennial generation are just some of the dynamic challenges businesses have had to address to stay relevant and profitable in the last 20 years. In order to move with the times, employees have had to acquire a whole new set of skills that previously never existed. These include social media expertise, mastering computing software and managing e-commerce sites. Likewise, the legal and regulatory framework in which today’s businesses operate is ever-changing. Offering staff development opportunities that allow your employees to stay abreast of new and upcoming regulations (as well as any pattern in prior fines, penalties and warnings issued by regulators or the courts) is a vital way to identify the steps necessary to align staff skills in times of change.
Morale is a useful indicator
If you measure employee engagement or workplace happiness in any way, you may discover patterns that will offer insights into how to address problems via staff training. Simple statistics on the quality or quantity of new recruits or on levels of retention may hint at problems. Are your best people leaving because you aren’t offering the employee development opportunities they need to advance their career? Are new recruits dwindling because they can’t see a structured staff training and career advancement program? Remember, it is usually cheaper to train existing staff than to hire new employees.
Once you have identified areas of concern, you can prioritise staff development to reflect order of importance and urgency. The payoffs can be tremendous with benefits available to everyone spanning improved staff motivation, better retention, more satisfied customers and, of course, higher sales and profits.
Encouraging staff development is a great way to keep employees engaged as well as upskill your workforce. Read our related articles on employee development: