Blog Post

How to Make the Right Call on Training Opportunities for Employees

Suzanne Lucas

Founder, Evil HR Lady

Amazon is spending $700 million to retrain one-third of its U.S. workforce, or about 100,000 employees. That comes out to $7,000 per worker trained. It’s a tremendous investment, and one your company likely isn’t ready—or in the position—to make. But it’s not entirely shocking for the tech giant.

According to Scott F. Latham, associate professor of strategic management at University of Massachusetts Lowell, Amazon is preparing for the future of work and tackling the present, which already looks radically different from just a few years ago.

"Ten years ago, for example, a young individual might have secured a job at an Amazon shipping facility based on physical skills alone or in human resources with a simple undergraduate degree," Latham writes. "Today, those same jobs require understanding how to work with a robot to move around packages efficiently or use artificial intelligence to sift through resumes."

In other words, STEM skills are no longer confined to technical jobs. Nearly every employee needs to (or will soon need to) possess the type of knowledge that will allow them to work effectively with some form of AI technology or robot.

Do you have similar concerns at your company? Do you need to retrain your employees to stay up to date with certain types of technology? And are schools and universities helping to provide this kind of training?

Odds are, your answers to these respective questions are: probably, yes and probably not.

Education, as Latham points out, is slow to keep up with these new trends. Most people complete a bachelor degree in five years, making some of the skills they learn their freshman year obsolete by the time they don that cap and gown. Companies need to seek out training solutions on their own—Universities and high schools certainly aren’t creating courses based on their needs.

And that’s okay. While we can wish schools focused more on career skills, teaching people how to think and solve problems can go a long way toward helping your business grow. But you don’t want to end up in a situation where you need to train your whole workforce, or even one-third, like Amazon does. That would be expensive and time-consuming. Here’s how you can make smart choices about training opportunities for employees without breaking the bank.

Train As You Go

Naturally, when you implement new reporting or communication systems across your organization, everyone needs to be trained at once. But some technologies evolve gradually, and best practices can shift and develop. For instance, a good deal of software remains largely the same with smaller updates from time to time. (As a basic example, if you can operate an iPhone 6, you don’t need a training course to use the iPhone X.)

But in situations where there are huge jumps in technology or software that require formal instruction, plan on conducting continuous training. Conference costs and continuing education opportunities can be money well spent, ultimately improving your company’s performance (not to mention satisfying your employees’ desire to learn and grow their skill set). Don’t balk at paying for something today if it will help you out tomorrow.

Don’t Adopt All the New Technology

Technology changes rapidly, but you don’t need to adopt every new thing. Take the time to determine which products really make sense for your employees’ needs and your organization at large. Your current HRIS is probably fine for the time being, unless you’ve greatly expanded your workforce. Do you need a specialized app for communicating with your employees, or is Slack working just fine? Ask yourself what problems you are hoping to solve with this new software.

Adopting everything so you can keep up with the Joneses (or Amazons) will leave you broke. Software installations and upgrades can be expensive, and a newer version might come out soon anyway. While it’s important to keep current, it’s also essential to stay within your budget.

Calculate Your ROI

When you introduce a new training program or system, take the time to evaluate its effectiveness. Fast food restaurants, for example, found that when they implemented ordering kiosks, consumers spent 20 percent more.

Can you say the same for your implementations? What about your training approach? Make the time to consider factors like productivity and sales, and figure out if what you are doing is worth the investment.

Keeping up with technological advancements is critical for any business in today’s fast-changing environment. When you introduce new technology, make sure it meets your employees’ needs and aligns with your organizational goals.

Image: Creative Commons

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