A Publication of WTVP

When we think about benefits, we typically think about the programs that show up as items on our paychecks like health insurance, disability and retirement plans. But have you ever thought about training as a quantifiable benefit to your employees?

The results of hundreds of engagement surveys show that while people value (and need) traditional benefits, true commitment to a job and organization is usually based on other factors. Some of those factors are “doing work I enjoy,” “feeling my work has value,” and “having an opportunity to grow and advance.” Training—both formal and informal—is a way to impact these factors and enhance employee engagement.

We all know the world of business is changing at a faster and faster rate. Leaders and employees have to constantly adapt to new technology, new competition, new markets and new economic realities. The skills that allowed us to succeed yesterday may not be effective tomorrow. And yet, businesses usually look to changing and improving processes to meet the challenges instead of improving their employees’ abilities to deal with the challenges. In David Rock’s book, The Quiet Leader, he emphasizes that, for the most part, we hire people for their brains, not their hands. So why don’t we spend time “building the brains” of our employees?

Organizational success relies on a skilled and committed workforce capable of taking advantage of opportunities and dealing with roadblocks. Fostering an environment of development is a way to both increase skills and build engagement. Training is one of the factors that lead to commitment that is not typically reflected by traditional benefit programs.

Individual development plans have gotten a bad reputation in the past few years because they typically focus on “fixing” someone—and only poor performers have them. Learning organizations realize that development plans are investment programs focused on building an employee’s skills so they can make a greater contribution to the organization’s success. You can’t just want someone to be good at something—you have to help them get there, and training is a way to do that.

And no, classroom training isn’t the magic answer for developing your employees. Shipping someone off to a week-long course based on the latest business bestseller may or may not get the results you need. Sometimes individuals are sent to training with the wishful thinking that they’ll be “fixed.” Training is just an event—learning takes place when employees know what they are expected to learn and how they will apply it back on the job. People learn when they read a book, when they work on a special project, when they’re given tough assignments, and even when they talk with a co-worker. But to make development truly happen, we have to be thoughtful about structuring the learning process.

Providing learning opportunities to your employees is a way of investing in their well-being and success, just like keeping them healthy and helping them prepare for retirement. I just don’t know what the entry would look like on a paystub. iBi