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Training = Retaining

Evidence shows that organisations who spend more on training and development are achieving greater results than those who don’t. Dan Walsh explains how you can create opportunity through Training & Development Plans in your business.

In a perfect world we have teams of people working within our business made up of individuals who are highly motivated, highly skilled, tuned in to the vision of the company and who are happy to go the extra mile ensuring customers return. Some of these people have brought with them the right technical and personal skills to perform at the required level, some need to learn these skills as they progress. In both cases they require ongoing training and development to ensure they and your business improve and achieve the success you have planned.

Having a structured training and development plan for an employee is an advantage in attracting the right people to your business but is also one of the same reasons why those people will stay with your business for the longer term. There has always been a fear, particularly in small business, that “What if I train a person and they leave?” The reverse is much worse: what if you don’t train them and they stay? If a business has recruited well and is confident in the competence of the person, investing more in that person will return, with interest, the value you identified in that person from day one. There are strong similarities as to why people join organisations and as to why they leave organisations. A constant in the top five reasons for joining an organisation is skills development and career opportunities. On the other side, a constant in the top five reasons for leaving an organisation is lack of development and career opportunities.

The employee is seeking from the employer scope to improve their core skills and competencies and other avenues to grow and develop themselves personally and professionally. The return for the business is a more engaged employee who wants to give a return for the trust and investment. That return is not only shown by the person doing their core job well but also is indicated by an increase in their discretionary effort. That is, the voluntary or extra effort that an employee puts in above what is required.

In the 2010 Business Review Weekly “Australia’s Best Places to Work” one of the most common high value traits was training opportunities. Of the Top 50 companies, the employees received an average of 66 hours of training a year, and 28% of companies subsidised non job specific training in areas of special interest to their employees. The only real estate agency mentioned in the Top 50 was Morton & Morton who have offices in NSW and Queensland. They make available additional training to staff covering personal development, leadership, career growth and public speaking.

What makes up the learning and development plan?
Training should be central to all activities within the business. Whilst the individual may have responsibility for set tasks, the business owner should be responsible for creating an environment where continued learning is encouraged and supported. As you can see in the sample diagram, learning is central to all areas of responsibility. To perform in a role a person needs knowledge and skills in all areas appropriate to their current or future role. To create the learning and development plan we need to articulate the areas of responsibility and the activities or tasks required within each area of responsibility.

Fig 1. Sample Areas of Responsibility:

A good way of doing this with your team members is to follow this four step plan. In the following scenario the manager is looking to promote an existing employee into a property manager’s role.

1. What are the business goals? (Manager shares this with employees) These may include:
a. Increase number of properties under management
b. Increase yield per property
c. Increase market share

2. What are the activities to achieve those goals? (Manager in conjunction with employee) These may include:
a. Conduct X number of prospecting calls per month
b. Convert listing to managed clients at X rate
c. Percentage of tenants in arrears is X%

3. What environment (technical and human resources) is required to assist in completing the activities? (Manager in conjunction with employee) These may include:
a. Property management software
b. Administration assistance
c. Mobile phone and laptop etc

4. What skill and knowledge gaps exist to hinder the completion of the activities to achieve the business goals? (Manager observation/feedback and employee self assessment) These may include:
a. Presentation skills are weak and employee confidence is low in the area of prospecting
b. Employee has not used the property management software
c. Employee has no strategy in dealing with tenants in arrears

Fig 2. Process summary
When completed effectively the above steps will have assisted in several areas. Firstly the manager has made the employee aware of the key goals of the business. Secondly, the manager has articulated the expected activity required of the employee to assist the business achieving the goals. Thirdly, the manager can ensure the employee has the appropriate technical and human support to complete their designated activities or job tasks. Finally, both the employer and employee can plan what learning activities need to be undertaken to head toward competence in their new role.

The employee’s manager is now in a position to complete a learning and development plan for the employee. Based on the above needs there would be several options available. The options to consider could involve looking externally, internally, online or a blend of all three. Like business goals, the learning goals should be SMART in their plan. The plan should outline the improvement area, the identified learning activity, have responsibility to ensure learning is taking place placed on both employee and manager and finally should have dates to be completed by.

How much do we spend on learning and development?
Well, firstly it largely depends on what your business can afford. In the US training has averaged between two and 2.5 per cent of payroll for the last 10 years, with leading companies spending as much as three per cent. In Australia average spending on training is much lower. The Australian Bureau of Statistics reported last year that we spend roughly 1.5 per cent to 1.7 per cent of gross salaries on training in industries similar to ours. One way to look at your cost is looking back and reflecting what return you have received in the past. Is your staff turnover high? Perhaps a lack of investment in training and development could be a reason? Are your staff achieving the targets you have set for them? If not, have you assisted the staff to identify weaknesses and identify improvement opportunities? Are your staff simply attending training courses to receive CPD points or are they looking for training where learning outcomes are directly aligned to their learning needs? Whatever the dollar figure, one thing is clear, the companies who spend more on training and development are achieving greater results than those who don’t. The added bonus is their staff really want to stay and work in that business.

Making it happen
A well structured training and development plan provides a pathway for the employee to be better in their current role and builds their skills and knowledge to move to the next role. Either way, just by putting the plan on paper does not make it happen. It requires the discipline of a dedicated manager and the motivation of a willing employee to make it happen. Often the plan gets made and life and other business take priority. The plan should be a focal point in all performance related discussions to ensure that the learning activities identified are taking place and the learning is being applied on the job. As managers we want to make sure that our investment is making a difference, helping the business and the individual achieve their goals all the while creating a better place to work.

Dan Walsh is Education & Training Manager at Rockend. Dan has had an extensive career as a training and development professional in Australia and South East Asia. Dan has worked in developing learning frameworks and associated training for small organisations to large multi nationals. Dan previously worked with Mortgage Choice Australia and American Express International.

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