The role and importance of the training function

Implications for the strategic framework of organisations.

Read time 6min 00sec

South Africa is experiencing a rapidly changing workplace because of the changes in value systems, new technologies, greater involvement with international competition, participative management, development of new products and the forever shifting sand of industrial relations.

All this necessitates that governments set aside a percentage of the budget to train, retrain and develop its workforce. It is estimated that South African organisations spend an average of 2.7% of their payroll on one or the other form of training.

Parastatals, which are actually not part of the above 2.7%, spend over 4% of their payroll on training, while an average of 2% is spent by manufacturing, services and trade, and less than 1.5% of the payroll is spent by the construction, transport and communication sectors.

When you check other countries, you'll discover that they spend a much higher percentage of their payroll on training and development. For instance, in a recent survey of the top 100 companies in the US, Pfizer, the largest pharmaceutical research company in the world, was leading other companies in terms of spending a higher percentage of its payroll on training than other companies, because Pfizer spends an average of 14% of its payroll on training, while other companies spend around 10% of theirs on training.

Companies in South Africa are still lagging behind in terms of understanding the importance of training and what value can be added to the company by developing the skills of your employees. In many organisations, the budget for training gets cut because the person responsible for training within the organisation does not understand the importance of sustainable efforts to train and develop the employees of the organisation. No one puts it better than Andrew Walker, when he states as follows: “You can tell training is not valued if it keeps getting cut. It's the first point of cuts for most finance people because no one is able to do a good business case to keep it in there. That sends a message to people that you don't value training.” (CIO News May 2007)

Low productivity, redundancy of older staff members, a high staff turnover, fear of technological advancement are some of the fruits any society can reap because of failure to invest in human resources at both micro and macro levels.

Steve Muench, in his article published in the Tech Transfer Newsletter, 2004, asserts that training is one of the chief methods of maintaining and improving intellectual capital. Because of this, an organisation's training can affect its value.

Studies have proven over and over again that there is value in training and developing employees. For the employees, the following benefits accrue:

* Training increases an employee's confidence and attitude, thereby empowering him/her to make better decisions and solve problems effectively.
* Training helps employees to handle stress better, manage tension and conflict.
* Job satisfaction increases, knowledge is improved and communications skills sharpened.
* Recognition of achievement motivates an employee to do even better in the workplace.

Strategic standpoint to training and development

As change is a primary and dominant factor in the twenty first century, organisations require their personnel to have creative and innovative solutions to daily and future challenges. To do that personnel have to be on the cutting edge of the latest technological advancement, operate the latest, most effective and efficient technology available for the purposes of achieving company goals.

Personnel have to know the latest developments in managing projects, in human resource practices, in labour law and a whole array of other fields, which might be relevant to that employee's work.

All the above point to one thing only and that is: to keep abreast of skills development, companies need to have training and development as part of the company's strategy. Research has proven that companies that have clear training policies and structures become more successful than ones that do not have such policies.

"A learning organisation is an organisation which facilitates the learning of all its members and continually transforms itself." (Pedler, Burgoyne and Boydell (1999:2) in Wilson (1999:78)

Strategic purpose of training

The focus of training and development in organisations has to be to assess and address skills deficiencies for the short and long-term and should therefore be a strategic priority.

The following are suggestions of what might be the strategic purpose of training within an organisation:

* Upgrading of managers' skills to enable them to steer and guide the organisation can be a crucial priority. Organisations need to have suitably qualified managers to steer and guide the organisation to its desired success. Without suitably trained managers, no organisation can expect to have growth and success. Organisations need to be constantly upgrading managers' skills so that change management processes can be managed by knowledgeable people.

* Training and development can act as catalysts for change in organisations in the sense that workshops in which certain techniques are used can be conducted to sensitise the workforce on new issues, but also to assist in the strategic changes a company intends to make in the turbulent and fluctuating business environment.

* To assist companies to achieve and maintain a competitive edge is another strategic purpose of training and development. Not only will strategic goals be achieved, but organisations which invest more in training and development will attract better candidates. By using training and development as a strategic human resource tool to meet organisational objectives, the company can enhance the overall improvement of organisational outputs.

* A learning climate can be increased in the organisation if training and development is a strategic priority. In this instance the learning needs of individuals will be guided by organisational goals. Untapped potential might even be identified, which can enhance individual performance.

If your company is serious about growth, training and development, we want to advise your company to take a second look at its training and development policy because the development of such policy and resources allocated to the operationalisation of such policy is indicative of the kind of importance your company attaches to training and development.

We at TIS HOLDINGS are on hand to assist your company develop its own policy, if you have such need, because your training and development policy will add to the broad framework for monitoring the performance of your employees. The plan, in turn, can be used to express the priority training interventions are given and the strategies to be followed during a given period of time.

So, call us and let's see how we can be of assistance to your company.

You'll be glad you did!!


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