With Training, Take the Long View – 3rd and Final in the Series

Upside-DownAs I described in my previous post, I’m taking issue with the article: “Who Can Fix the ‘Middle-Skills’ Gap?” by Thomas Kochan, David Finegold and Paul Osterman, which appeared in the December 2012 issue of Harvard Business Review. The authors simply accept at face value the notion that individual employers should not train employees because those employees might leave. I disagree.

In fact, I believe the best way to retain employees is to continually offer them great training. At our annual senior leadership offsite planning retreat, we always have an agenda item around how we ensure job satisfaction for our associates. We believe there are multiple components, including:

  • Stimulating, challenging work
  • Clear expectations
  • Continuous feedback
  • Unparalleled learning
  • Explicit career paths
  • Fair reward and recognition
  • Inclusive culture

I recently did a presentation to the leadership team of a local college on “programs or incentives to increase morale and productivity.” I explained that if the above components aren’t covered, no program or bonus system matters. Focus on the core blocking and tackling of creating satisfied/happy/productive employees!

Similar to training, professional certification makes some employers feel at-risk for losing talent (after their people become certified). There was a local, large firm who stopped incentivizing their employees to be certified because its management believed certification created opportunities for people to leave.

Here, too, I think it is short sighted. We pay for study materials, pay for the exam (pass or fail), and give a spot-bonus of $750 for each technical exam passed (for Microsoft, there are typically four exams in a certification so it’s $3K total). That investment in our people is small in comparison to the benefits we reap: extraordinarily loyal and satisfied employees who do great work! Our employees are happy, our customers are happy and Intertech thrives. It may sound simplistic, but it’s a formula that works!

With Training, Take the Long View – 2nd in a Series

Tidal-WaveAs I described in my previous post, I’m taking issue with some of the assumptions in the article: “Who Can Fix the ‘Middle-Skills’ Gap?” by Thomas Kochan, David Finegold and Paul Osterman, which appeared in the December 2012 issue of Harvard Business Review. They write:

“An acute shortage of trained people to fill millions of openings for technical jobs is undermining U.S. competitiveness and worsening income disparity.”

Ok, I don’t disagree with them on that! But then the authors go on to say:

“Companies fear that if they invest in training on their own, competitors that don’t make similar investments will lure away their workers.”

I honestly do not see this as issue with Intertech training customers. While I suppose well-trained employees can and do get poached on occasion, it is shortsighted to try to prevent this problem by not training your people. That is the so-called logic that made it a crime to teach a slave to read. It creates a weaker organization over time (and it certainly did not help the United States either).

Keeping people in a “one down” position makes them angry and resentful. Not investing in people as a way of keeping them down is a slippery slope toward a culture of repression. And it doesn’t work. Smart, determined people will find ways to build skills on their own and will join organizations that actually value them.

I’ve long believed—and seen the results to validate my belief—that even without adding a single new employee in one year, we are still stronger by year-end simply through continuous training and certification of our current people.

Next time: The practical aspects of taking the long view!

Taking the Long View with Training. First in a Series

Long-Term-ViewSome sobering statistics:

–About 69 million people (roughly 48 percent of the U.S. labor force) currently work in “middle-skills” jobs in fields including computer technology, nursing and high-skill manufacturing.

–As many as 25 million, or 47 percent of all new job openings between now and 2020, will fall in the “middle skills” range—and the numbers are expected to grow substantially as more baby boomers retire.

–Only 15 percent of U.S. college graduates major in science, technology, engineering or math—a percentage that has remained constant for two decades.

With baby boomers retiring and so few young people acquiring technical skills, it doesn’t take a Ph.D. in statistics to understand that the United States has, and will continue to have, a growing shortage of employees for critical and high-paying jobs. This has huge implications for our economy and our society.

The issue is described in detail in the December 2012 issue of Harvard Business Review in the article “Who Can Fix the ‘Middle-Skills’ Gap?” by Thomas Kochan, David Finegold and Paul Osterman.

Training your current employees, empowering them with new skills and encouraging them to tackle new professional challenges seems like the obvious solution, at least to me. The authors believe many employers do not share my philosophy out of fear that well-trained employees are more likely to get poached by other companies.

What do you think? I’d like to hear from anyone who has experience with this issue.

My next several posts will delve deeper into this topic. I, as you probably expect, believe training is a very smart investment. I would not operate a technology training business if I believed otherwise. My next few posts will explain why.