Developing a more professional team

DESPITE a wave of redundancies across industry and business in recent months it seems many companies are now looking beyond staff cuts for additional cost-saving measures.

The traditional targets of marketing and training budgets might just have slipped underneath the radar, however, as businesses wake up to the advantages of ongoing staff training programs.

And it’s not just for professional development but also as a valuable marketing tool for corporations looking to attract and retain top class staff.

Training is now focused on the development of communication skills in addition to traditional technical training.

Australian Institute of Management executive director Patrick Cullen said the push for training often emanated from line managers rather than the human resources department.

“I would talk about two fundamental levels of training,” he said.

“One is based on the need for people to have the skills to do a job that had to be done … companies have always invested in that.

“On top of that there’s increasing interest in a range of development opportunities.

“The vast bulk of our training is training managers … and I think the level of management and leadership is improving.

“The actual cost of investing in people is very insignificant if you look at the cost of training people in relation to salaries.”

The real issue for companies looking at downsizing is ensuring the people left at a company are fully skilled and preforming to full capacity.

Despite the downsizing currently taking place, businesses are increasingly aware that the right people represent a real competitive advantage.

McKinnon Sales Centre managing director Shirley McKinnon claims that, whereas in the past, training budgets were hit hard in difficult times, companies now were talking about the value of self development.

“There’s a big focus on improving communications internally,” Ms McKinnon said.

“When things get tight some people pull back. The thing is, you’re relying more and more on staff and then you turn around and say you won’t spend anything on training.

“Companies are getting smarter. You just can’t afford too much staff turnover.”

Despite the demand for interpersonal skills, training companies want to see a return on their investment.

The market is demanding practical and relevant training rather than theory-based programs.

“In the past a lot of training got a bad name because it was ineffectual,” Ms McKinnon said.

“I think if you really want to support staff through uncertain times, spending money on self development is money well spent because they’ll ride out uncertainty.

“And if someone is eager to learn and a company won’t pay – there’s a big message there.”

Training isn’t cheap and undertaking effective, ongoing training can run into tens of thousands of dollars.

Realisations Consultancy director corporate education Genevieve Armson said long-term programs delivered far better outcomes for businesses.

“It just seems people have changed,” Ms Armson said. “You can send your people along to a one-day program but companies are asking how much value they are getting out of that.

“They’re (businesses) really looking at up-skilling people so they can take on a variety of roles and recognising that a lot of managers have moved through the ranks but haven’t ever had any management training. It’s about communication but it’s more than that. It’s about relating to people and how you deal with conflict.”

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