By James Hinchliffe, Managing Director of Sheffield-based VOICE Marketing

In these challenging economic times it is important to fix your sights firmly on the future, recognising that the strength of your workforce will directly impact the success of your business. When we set up VOICE Marketing in 2006 we did so with a strong commitment to investing in staff development and this has paid off — we have grown an average of 100% each year and are now planning to expand even further due to our growing client base.

By offering a combination of vocational training, as well as more traditional skills through our VOICE Apprenticeship scheme, we have seen a big improvement in individual performance and the success of the business overall. By helping our staff to do the best job possible we boost their confidence and ultimately their salary. By improving their maths and IT skills they also open up much stronger career progression opportunities into management roles. And this has a huge impact on the success of the business. We have very high employee retention rates, which directly benefits our clients.

Driving growth and success through your people takes thought and planning. For us, working with Investors in People provided a lot of guidance and support, which has been invaluable in introducing new development programmes for our people.

Here are some of my top tips to get you started.

Focus on long-term business aims

Think about the skills that your business needs but is potentially lacking. Any development programme must have these core skills at its heart, to ensure that you have the right talent and skills to support the business and its growth in the long term.

Choose your delivery partners carefully

If you are looking to engage with external trainers or coaches choose wisely, there are a lot of services available but you must find the right fit for your organisation. For example, our apprenticeship scheme allows employees to gain NVQ qualifications in a range of key skills, and we bring the assessors into our office, which works well for our people. Training off-site may work better for you.

Be flexible

Don’t put too much pressure on your workforce. They need to be able to juggle their jobs with their training and the latter must complement their day to day roles. Employees will inevitably progress at different paces, so by all means challenge your people, but allow them to develop in a way that is comfortable for them.

Development plans are a must have

Investing in training your workforce works best as part of a long-term commitment — taking time to understand your employees’ future ambitions will ensure they are fully engaged with the business and will make the most out of their training.

Measure your peoples’ success and shout about it!
Showing how individuals have progressed as a result of their training will act as an incentive for others, whilst highlighting the success of those who have taken part. Tracking the progress of your development scheme, whether it’s the pass rate of NVQ’s or the praise of your clients, will ensure that even when budgets are stretched you have a sound business case for continuing on with the development of your people.

Following these guidelines will place your business in a strong position to push on and flourish. Remember the importance of tailoring your training to the needs of your people and the business and don’t be afraid to review the training to ensure it is the best fit for you. Your employees are the architects of your success, and acting upon this has never been as important as it is now.