By Kevin Young, General Manager EMEA, SkillSoft

Times have been tough. And for many, it will stay tough for a while. As a result, salary increases and bonuses are unlikely to return, and no doubt the threat of redundancy will continue. This makes staff motivation more important than ever before, so investing in training and development will go a long way in helping employees to feel engaged and part of a thriving, successful business. In a climate where most business owners are looking for every opportunity to cut costs, it’s crucial to remember that talented staff are, in fact, your most important assets.

Help staff understand their long-term role in the business
Many organisations make the mistake of relying heavily on staff to flag their own training needs. Companies shouldn’t rely on staff alone, and just supplying a regular roster of ongoing courses isn’t the answer. Once skills gaps have been identified, communicate to employees in person the importance of their development within the context of the organisation’s long-term objectives. Explain what is required from them before, during and after the course, and provide a step-by-step personal development plan that includes measurable and quantifiable objectives. Only then will employees feel that they are making a direct contribution to the business, and that their career path has been carved for them as an individual.

Help staff to value their skills

All training should have a practical outcome. It should improve staff performance and productivity, and it should arm them with the relevant skills required to meet the business’ current and future objectives. From the outset, staff should understand how their newly acquired skills will be used on the job. By engaging staff in a discussion at an early stage, they can understand the relevance, importance and practicalities of the course to their role. With this approach, staff will become more aware of their contribution, which can go a long way towards boosting morale and engaging staff in the long term success of the business.

Find the right mix for the individual

Today, businesses often feel they have one of two choices: classroom-based or virtual online learning. While classroom-based courses certainly offer a practical, hands-on approach to training, virtual training also offers a whole host of benefits. For the business this includes money saved on venue, tutor and travel costs. For staff, this means completing a training course around their own time constraints. Rather than a ‘one size fits all,’ try to provide staff with the right blend of training courses to suit the individual; one that is likely to keep them motivated. This could mean a mix of both, where for instance an element of the training is conducted online and later re-enforced in a classroom environment. The advent of smartphones and tablets, as well as a wide range of technologies, also offers companies the chance to be more creative in their delivery of training programmes.

Measure, measure and measure

Measuring the value and outcome of learning programmes is critical. It enables companies to demonstrate the value and return on investment they’ve achieved, and it helps to ensure that staff remain engaged by applying what they’ve learnt to their everyday role. Unfortunately for most companies, their evaluation ends when the course does. As a result, resources invested in training often go to waste. Instead, businesses should consider measurement, using defined success criteria, as an ongoing element in their training plans. For instance, once a course has been completed, it is vital to measure employees’ initial reaction, satisfaction and planned action derived from a learning intervention. This could be through a simple post-course survey. As a result, staff gain a greater appreciation of how their skills are tied directly to the success of the business.

Keeping staff engaged is a difficult task for any employer. But for those that get it right, the benefits are clear: an engaged workforce that feels valued, and a prosperous business that is underpinned by a highly talented and skilled workforce.