The Importance of Establishing a Strong Corporate Training Culture
By Dave Wilcox, LearningZen CEO
Most companies state that they want to build a culture that embraces training, but many fall short when it comes to following through on this goal. As a CEO of a small software company, I recognize that providing training opportunities for my staff is critical. As such, we have developed a number of training initiatives that range from employee lead lunch-and-learn seminars, to online technical training courses, to advanced certification and degree programs. Likewise, if an employee needs a book or wants to access some online training materials, it is almost always approved. Our philosophy on this is simple; if an employee wants to take the time to invest in themselves, we will do what we can to cover the costs.
While small training requests, such as purchasing a book or attending a seminar, are approved with no strings attached, larger training requests may require commitment from the employee. For employees that wish to earn their Project Management Professional (PMP) certification, for example, we may require that they continue their employment for one year from the date of the course or be asked to pay back the training investment.
In addition to achieving a more highly skilled work force, our training initiatives have also had a major impact on our corporate culture overall. Our employees know that we are invested in them and reciprocate by investing in us. Even though there can be concern that employees will utilize our training opportunities to subsequently quit and advance their carriers elsewhere else, we have found just the opposite to be true. By providing a culture where our employees feel supported in their self-improvement efforts, we have in turn improved our employee retention rates.
As an executive of a small business, I feel I always need to keep my eye on the bottom line. Through the years, there have been times when I felt we simply could not afford a training initiative or program that was suggested by a member of the management team. Despite my concerns, however, I cannot think of a single case where we chose to invest in training that turned out to be the wrong move.
Despite being proud of our current training culture, I fully realize that we could always do more. I often read stories about amazing companies that have found ways to take their training to whole new levels. While we cannot necessarily match the programs of some of these companies, I have found that rather than getting discouraged, that we can use their success as a catalyst to make improvements in our own programs. We may not be able to match the very best of these companies, but we can always be looking for ways to integrate some of their training concepts into our existing programs.
In summary, my advice is simple. Although it is easy to make excuses as to why to not invest in training, (e.g. it costs too much, I don’t have the time, the employees will leave once trained, etc…), the benefits of having a strong corporate training culture will more than balance out any of these concerns. Don’t get discouraged if you can’t immediately have the top training program, but constantly work to improve your offerings and your employees and business will both flourish for the effort.