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There are many tried-and-true formulas for business success, but a strong staff of skilled workers is the foundation of every successful business. That’s why one of the most difficult issues for any business owner is employee turnover. The most recent Work Institute study found that employee turnover cost businesses over $700 billion in 2021. There’s a heavy price to be paid for every lost employee, but what can business leaders do to avoid dealing with the pitfalls of losing their strongest team members?
When it really comes down to it, no good employee wants to remain at a job that stagnates their growth. According to a recent Gartner study, 82% of employees want their organizations to view them as people with individual goals and aspirations. LinkedIn’s Workforce Learning Report also states that 93% of employees would stay at a company longer if it invested in their careers. The clear winners are those businesses that find a way to keep their employees engaged. Employees who regularly get opportunities to learn, develop and advance their skills are more likely to stay with a company. When you invest in your team, you invest in both your company’s future and their future as professionals.
That said, having an average training program for employees is not enough. Business owners should seek to optimize these programs to the fullest. In my experience, there are three key areas leaders should focus on when optimizing a continuous training program for their workers.
1. Ensure your team is technically certified
Technical certification is the foundation of all employee training. Every new employee should be properly certified in all the areas related to their responsibilities. Without technical expertise, the leaks in productivity will spill over and lead to a lack of efficiency and lost time. To truly excel as a thriving entity, everyone on your team must be a technical expert in their respective areas.
Certification is an ongoing process. As new technologies will continuously enter and disrupt your industry, you must keep up-to-date with the latest tools and software that your competitors are leveraging and update your training standards when necessary. This is where you, as a leader, must make important distinctions between the trends that come and go and the technologies that will change the shape of your field for the foreseeable future.
Since day one as president of my company, we have required ongoing skill certifications and competencies of our entire team, from entry-level ticket routers and customer support architects to account managers and engineers. We also require continued education and up-to-date certifications for any customer-facing technical personnel. This has been vital in providing a leg up over our competitors, but also gives our workers the confidence in their knowledge and abilities to deliver the best results possible.
2. Don’t overlook the importance of soft skills
Your employees can have all the technical expertise in the world, but if they can’t communicate with clients, customers or each other, those earned skills won’t translate into business success. That’s where soft skills come into play. Business success requires an understanding of people and human interaction, whether interpersonal communication between internal teams or the ability to communicate with customers to make them feel heard and understood.
The good news about investing in soft skills such as communication, leadership, teamwork, emotional intelligence and problem-solving is that your employees don’t need to be experts in these areas to ensure these skills translate to professional success. There is a baseline requirement of competency necessary for each employee to thrive, and then it becomes an ongoing process of lifelong learning to improve these skills over time.
Soft skill training is adaptable. While every employee should be required to undergo necessary training, some employees may naturally be suited to certain skills while needing extra training in others. For example, your new hire might excel in one-on-one settings with customers but struggle with leadership roles. It makes sense to tailor this employee’s training to ensure you fill in the gaps.
3. Invest in outside-the-box skills that give your employees an edge
Let’s face it: any company that isn’t investing in expanding its technical skills and soft skills is not a worthy competitor, so let’s assume the top companies in your industry are checking the previous two boxes. To get an edge on them, you have to arm your employees with niche skills that give your business a unique advantage.
For example, we’ve seen a lot of advancement in generative AI over the previous year. Those companies that are training their staff to utilize generative AI to boost their output and improve their workflows are the ones that can potentially come out ahead in the long run because they benefit from the combined productivity of a skilled workforce and technological efficiency.
Perhaps there is an up-and-coming software that can potentially do wonders in saving your employees time to turn around items. Maybe you’re a healthcare company, and there’s new research in your field about how to best optimize patient health outcomes that aren’t yet being leveraged — which allows you to come out ahead by training your clinicians accordingly. You will separate your business from the pack by consistently investing in building niche skills for your staff.
Identify the blind spots in your training program and adjust accordingly
While most businesses have an employee training program, many miss the mark regarding one of these three key areas. Employee development is a continuous effort that needs to constantly be adjusted through different coaching strategies, training programs and leadership mentoring. Those businesses that don’t invest in their employees will get left behind, so you must prioritize the workers who keep the ship running, and your business will flourish.