A quick question. Why do you pay your employees?
My answer: You pay them to provide the best, most efficient and most profitable response in the moment – then to do it again in the next moment, then the next. We pay our employees to think through each situation, using their best information (what they know) to make a sound and profitable decision.
Another question: How do you ensure your employees are ready to provide the best, most efficient and most profitable response in each moment?
My answer: education.
In a recent Wall Street Journal article, “Why Companies Aren’t Getting the Employees They Need,” author Peter Cappelli identifies that companies spend so much less time educating.
“Unfortunately, American companies don’t seem to do training anymore. Data are hard to come by, but we know that apprenticeship programs have largely disappeared, along with management-training programs. And the amount of training that the average new hire gets in the first year or so could be measured in hours and counted on the fingers of one hand.”
When times are tough generally the first thing cut from the P&L is education. This is primarily because return on education (ROE) is rarely an easy or straight-forward calculation – there are so many variables. Regardless, in an intellectual workplace – a thinking workplace, where the goal of every organization is to transform human (thinking) capital into financial capital – education is critical to sustainable performance.
Four Things to Think About
Consider these creative and on-the-job methods to keep education alive and profitable:
- Mentoring and buddy-up: Mentoring connects a senior employee with a junior employee; buddy-up connects two peer employees. Learning works off a curriculum or agenda, happens in the exchange of ideas, experience and perspective, and is on-the-job.
- Apprentice or internship: Cappelli offers that organizations could offer longer new-employee probationary periods (at a reduced salary) as the employee develops critical performance-based skills. The cost of learning is shared with the employee.
- “Blogucation”: Have employees identify key blogs, topics or authors and sign up via RSS feed for all updates (guidance may be needed from management). Have them share what they learn at company or employee performance meetings.
- Create a fast-track trainee program: Commit the resources to a select group of high-potential employees who learn in an accelerated way, efficiently hosted via the web, self-directed, team projects and mentoring. If resources are limited, use what resources are available for high-potential performers.
A down economy forces us to look more creatively and more innovatively in how we do all of our work. I imagine that a better question to ask than “What education programs do we cut?” is “What methods can we invent that ensure our employees are always learning and improving their performance?” Maybe the first education topic should be creativity. …
Jay Forte is a nationally ranked thought leader and President of Humanetrics. Jay guides organizations – their leaders and managers – in how to attract, hire and retain today’s best talent. He is the author of “Fire Up! Your Employees and Smoke Your Competition” and “The Greatness Zone – Know Yourself, Find Your Fit, Transform The World.” Jay is a member of SHRM, ASTD, the National Speakers Association and the Florida Speakers Association. follow him on Twitter.