Training - Fluff and Nonsense?

The oil and gas industry is feeling the pinch. I am experiencing this first hand as the uptake of training in this sector is down. As the oil and gas industry limps along, the renewable sector is flourishing, hail diversification as business is still brisk.

It has, however, made me think how the industry views training. That it is optional rather than essential or even worse fluff and nonsense!  I think this is a view that could prove costly to both short term profits and long term progress, possibly because it is viewed as an expense rather than an investment. This is understandable as without measurable results it is impossible to view training as anything more than an expense.

A change of approach is required for training to be considered a capital investment. It just needs thoughtful consideration, something like a needs analysis or in other words an analysis.  If we asked the questions “what do we want from training?”, “what's going to change in my business?” or “Is the behaviour or performance of my employees as a result of this training going to help my company?" This may take time to think  through and will focus more on your processes than your products but as you go through this analysis you will consider the strengths and weaknesses in your company and you will identify the deficiencies that, when corrected, will present a potential for an upside gain in business.

One of the most common areas for improvement is helping supervisors manage performance better. Many people are promoted into managerial positions because they're technically good at their jobs, but they aren't trained as managers to help their subordinates achieve peak performance. This is very common in the energy industry. Determining your training and development needs based on targeted results is only the beginning and the next obvious step is to establish a learning dynamic that’s suits your business.

I believe passionately that in today's economy, if your business isn't learning, then you're going to fall behind. And a business learns as its people learn. After all, your employees are the ones that produce, refine, protect, deliver and manage your products or services every day, year in, year out. With the rapid pace and international reach of the marketplace, continual learning is critical to your business's continued success.

This does not need to be complicated if you follow three simple stages:

1. Clearly communicate your expectation that employees should take steps to improve their skills to stay on top of their professions. Make sure you support their efforts in this area by supplying the resources they need to accomplish this goal.

2. Communicate to your employees the specific training needs and targeted results you've established as a result of your needs analysis.

3. Provide a sound introduction and orientation to your company's culture, including your learning culture, to any new employees you hire.

Financial considerations related to training can be perplexing, but in most cases, the true budgetary impact depends on how well you manage the first three components (needs analysis, learning and leadership). If your training is targeted to specific business results, then you're more likely to be happy with what you spend on training. But if the training budget isn't related to specific outcomes, then money is more likely to be spent on courses that have no positive impact on the company.

In most organisations training budgets are solely a function of whether the company is enjoying an economic upswing or enduring a downturn. In good times, companies tend to spend money on training that is not significant to the organisation, and in bad times, the pendulum swings to the other extreme and training is stopped altogether. In any economic environment, the training expense should be determined by the targeted business results you want, not other budget-related factors.

So my advice is, sit down, assess your training and development needs once or twice a year and brainstorm how to achieve your desired results effectively and efficiently.

Your employees are your principle business asset. Invest in them thoughtfully and strategically, and you will reap rewards that pay off now, and for years to come.

This is not fluff and nonsense it is just good commonsense!

Beth Roestenburg – Head of Training - 3 Sun Group

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