“Sending a staff person to some kind of training is one of the easiest ways to let them know that they are appreciated, that the company is investing in them because we want them around for a long time,” says Erin Wilton, human resources manager at Sutherland Schultz in Cambridge, Ont., “It’s a way to work with the employee and management together.”

{mosimage} While it is difficult to determine the exact cost of hiring and training a new employee, research over the years has estimated that it can cost a company anywhere from $10,000 to the equivalent of one year’s salary each time an employee needs to be replaced. Maintaining talent and productivity, therefore, ensures a fiscal responsibility to the company’s bottom line as well as a sense of continuum. It just makes good business sense.

So how do human resources departments fit into this equation? With their knowledge of business strategies, their access to developmental resources, and their relationship with both the employee and management, who better to maintain this balance than a company’s human resources department?

Many HR professionals are now working in close partnership with management and employees to implement training and development as a means of employee retention, thereby ensuring a win-win situation for all involved.

While some training or development is required due to legislation  or perhaps a performance review or job-responsibility change, requests for training and professional develop can originate from a variety of sources. Some requests come from employees themselves as a means to further explore interests that may or may not relate to their current job situation.

Others may come from the person’s manager as they look to the future to see how best to utilize the individual’s skills. The opportunity to attend training and further develop oneself is in itself a major contributor to motivation and retention.

Many HR staff now realize that training does not necessarily mean sitting in a formal classroom either. There are so many learning options available, and the successful HR member is able to communicate with a team approach to match the request with the method that is best for both the employee and the company.
Some of the choices for skill development may be as simple as:

•     Attending external seminars off-site through a reputable provider - By utilizing organizations such as Human Resources Professionals Association of Ontario (HRPAO), Canadian Society for Training and Development (CSTD) or American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) and attending trade shows featuring training companies, finding a company that offers courses on a wide variety of topics is that much easier. These one-off courses have an added benefit of allowing the employee to network, thus providing fresh perspectives to issues.

•     Attending internal seminars taught by specialists or guests ­- Sometimes a group of employees will all require the same knowledge. Your best option here may be to take advantage of companies that custom design a topic to deliver at your location around your schedule. The cost for such training is often lower than sending a few staff offsite to the same course and has the benefit of dealing with your company’s issues rather than generalizing.

•     Training fellow co-workers to strengthen already existing knowledge - A small investment in the cost of a train-the-trainer program can provide long-term dividends in two forms. The company will have a qualified trainer on staff who is engaged and challenged and will be able to continue the development cycle as others require training with no additional expense.

•     Developing a library of materials to access as an employee requires it - Utilize the expanse of knowledge found in books available through associations, learning organizations and all bookstores by developing a library of books, magazines, DVD’s and periodicals that span a wide variety of topics. The expense for initial output may be done gradually but the results are immediate.

•     Placing commonly sought-after topics on a company’s intranet - Some knowledge is required on an ongoing basis or changes rapidly. Make access to this material easy by putting it on the company’s intranet or similar infrastructure where all employees may access it quickly and with no expense.

•     Offering e-learning to access a wide variety of content around even the tightest of schedules - E-Learning is common now and the range of topics covers everything from soft-skills to technical to personal interest. A good e-course will allow the user to access material 24/7 and review as needed.

Many also come with tracking features that allow managers to review progress made and discuss results with the employee. Some courses also offer podcast versions for staff always on the go. E-courses can be found through any training company or local educational institute, and are very affordable for companies with a smaller training budget.

•     Providing flex-time hours so that employees may attend college or university courses - Sometimes finding the course isn’t the issue but finding the time to attend one is. Allowing variable hours or the option to work from home means staff can attend off site training that perhaps they couldn’t otherwise.

While many secondary education providers hold courses on nights and weekends, it is not always an option. This freedom to attend is also considered a bonus or compensation to some employees and can speak volumes about the company being an “employer of choice.”

•     Offering a tuition program to assist with the cost of continuing education - While many companies provide the time or resources for development, expense is the final factor that may hold some back from seeking training on their own. By having a policy that clearly states if financial assistance is available and for what sort of training or content, the company is openly offering their services for development.

“We all know that money is a short-lived motivator at best,” says Faye Wales, a facilitator with Waterloo Management Education Centre and subject expert in retention and human resource issues, “It is the opportunity to feel challenged at work, continuously learn, and truly contribute to the success of the organization that retains employees.” 

Tracey Saraceni is the public programs manager and director of business development with Waterloo Management Education Centre in Waterloo, Ont., and has a strong background in training and development in various fields.