How to overcome staff training challenges

Companies need to understand the value of training their employees. Quality training is critical to increase productivity and decrease staff turnover and the need for supervision by making staff more self-reliant.

Training helps increase job satisfaction, morale, and motivation among employees – a happy workforce is a productive workforce. In addition, training increases the well-being of employees and reduces absenteeism, mistakes, and stress in the workplace.

In the case of IT implementations, the highest return on investment is proven to be in organisations that ensure that their employees adopt a new software solution by implementing a change management plan alongside a new deployment or implementation. This plan includes employee training. Empowering all future users in the company with the skills needed to utilise the systems will not only ensure a smooth transition but will also see employees getting the full value out of the solution.

Despite this, a challenging economic environment means training is often the first to go when budgets are cut.

This is not unique to large organisations. Every decision-maker is faced with how best to spend resources (like time and money) to keep training staff while the pressure to perform in a competitive market increases on an almost daily basis. Many argue that employees cannot afford to take time out of their day-to-day tasks to complete training as hitting profit margins are critical.

However, to ensure the success of software implementations, organisations need to commit to enabling the growth of their employees.

It is imperative for organisations to set aside budget for training when implementing an IT solution. The potential impact for a solution is greatly lessened if users aren’t correctly trained on how to use the system.

In order for initiatives to be successful, organisations could consider tying an element of performance bonus to the achievement of learning goals. At solution go-live, the employee and his or her manager should meet to determine learning goals. These then need to be assessed regularly. The manager knows what to budget for from a training perspective and the employee knows to allocate time to realise specific learning goals in order to achieve a percentage of their performance bonus.

In order to overcome time and budget constraints, organisations are looking to both online and classroom training. Each method of training has advantages, and it is important to weigh up the benefits of each. E-learning has the benefit of being flexible from a time perspective. However, in classroom training the employee has the benefit of being able to draw a lot from experienced trainers, more so than online content.

Many organisations are adapting the best of both models, using elearning to teach the basics and classroom training with specialists to educate employees on advanced features and functionality to enhance their user experience.

One element that is being increasingly instituted is the concept of knowledge sharing within the organisation. A collaboration portal such as SharePoint allows employees across the organisation to benefit from their colleagues experience, ask questions and search for relevant contextual content. This supplements the more traditional methods of training.

Irrespective of the approach used, companies need to be more mindful of maintaining short-term growth while still taking a long view of employee satisfaction and skills equity. They need to consider the high cost of a solution not having sufficient uptake, or being poorly used and having a demotivating effect. It might not be easy, but the potential rewards of investing in their people far outweigh the risks.

Justine Morgan is the General Manager of Decision Enablement at Decision Inc.

7 questions used to help detect signs of ethical shortcomings

Most organisations within the public and private sectors accept that they need to be ethical in order to improve performance, build trust with stakeholders and achieve long-term success.

But many of them struggle to integrate ethics into the way they do business especially when nobody is watching.

The first step in building an ethical organisation is obviously to develop and implement a code of ethics but, as King III makes clear, that’s not enough: boards have a responsibility to ensure that the organisation’s ethics is managed effectively.

The social and ethics committee plays an important role in ensuring that the ethics of the company is managed effectively. Another key role player is the internal audit function, which in essence acts as the “eyes and ears” of the social and ethics committee. However, many internal auditors are not looking deeply enough at the organisations they serve.

Internal audit needs to move beyond a tick-box approach to assess the true state of an organisation’s ethics, and be more alert to the danger signs. These danger signs should also be considered by members of the social and ethics committee and the board itself.

The following seven questions can be used to help detect the danger signs of ethical shortcomings:

1. Does the organisation operate within a highly competitive environment? Such environments may cause people to bend the rules in a bid to survive. The pressure to meet demanding or unrealistic deadlines is also something to watch out for.

2. Does the organisation have a short-term focus? This is a complex question that goes to the heart of modern capitalism and the public sector is not exempt given the need for political heads to report good news regularly. An excessive focus on short-term results can provoke some executives to engage in unethical behaviour.

A powerful contributing factor is the mindset of investors or political stakeholders. If quarterly results are all that matters, management teams are “incentivised” not to take into account the longer-term implications of their actions. Short-term goals can also open the door to corruption and cronyism because the need to make money/ show results trumps everything.

3. Does the corporate culture tolerate bullying? Are whistle-blowers protected? If it’s common practice for those who do not fit the corporate mould to be overruled or even victimised in day-to-day business, it could be that the corporate culture promotes the “conform or get out” mentality. Such an environment is friendly towards corruption because the pressure to accept the status quo is immense. Similarly, in such an environment, anyone who does report unethical behaviour would not receive adequate protection, which would in turn encourage people to keep their heads down or to leave the organisation. High staff turnover could be a sign of this type of corporate culture.

4. Is there an overly deferential attitude towards leadership, or an excessively hierarchical culture? One danger sign is that authority generally is not questioned within the organisation. Another is that juniors are too eager to please their superiors. A third thing to watch out for is the iconic leader who cannot be questioned””a particular problem where a successful CEO or founder has been in office for too long.

5. Are there visible consequences for those who act unethically? Every organisation will have people who act unethically from time to time, for a wide variety of reasons. The question to consider is whether those that do so suffer real consequences, no matter how senior they are and that those consequences are obvious. These could range from court prosecution or firing to disciplinary action or other internal sanctions. It’s worth stressing that unethical behaviour needs to be dispassionately treated the requirement of equality before the law holds good.

6. Are values a key criterion in the recruitment process? It’s vital that the new people coming into the company are aligned with its ethical values, and that HR and other recruitment agencies actively search for such people.

7. Is the corporate oversight function weak? Answering this question will mean the internal audit team, social and ethics committee and even the board will need to assess honestly how much leadership acts on the recommendations of the internal audit.

Answering these questions will help the internal audit team and other role-players to look under the surface to establish the true state of corporate ethics. Diagnosis must be made before a cure can be attempted.

Dr Claudelle von Eck is the CEO of The Institute of Internal Auditors.

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