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How Investing In Employee Training Benefits Your Business While many training programs are judged on employee benefit, businesses also see boosts from such initiatives.

By Stephen Maclaren

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Corporate training is growing. Fast. It's quickly becoming a "do or die" decision for many businesses across the world, but it is felt particularly acutely for companies here in the UAE where staff retention is a big issue.

We know that happy staff means retained staff, so let's look at two statistics that illustrate this: first, a major research project by Middlesex University's Institute for Work Based Learning found that 74% of UK workers felt they were not reaching their potential and wished they had received more job training. Second, according to Canadian tourism and hospitality HR association Go2HR, around 40% of employees who do not receive adequate training end up leaving their post within a year.

This presents something of a dilemma for both HR and leadership because it has often been high-turnover rates that were cited as a reason for not providing ongoing employee training in the first place. Now we have a situation where on one hand we can say, "What if we train an employee and they leave?" and on the other, "What if we don't train them and they stay?"

Where you fall along this line will probably determine your approach to corporate training. Whatever your stance, it needs to be the one that most benefits your business as you build for the future.

Related: Revolving Doors: An Analysis Of The UAE's High Staff Turnover Rate

Corporate training in the UAE

Given that these findings show the importance of staff training as a method of employee satisfaction and retention, what does this mean for businesses in the UAE where staff turnover is particularly high? Well, it's not necessarily a doom and gloom scenario: as far back as 2001, the International Journal of Training and Development stated that "Emirati companies are very aware of best training and development practice as implemented in their foreign counterparts."

While exact figures on some aspects of training in the region are hard to come by, the journal notes that 82% of UAE companies did have a formal process to assess the training needs of their employees– a figure in line with that of the UK or France.

But not all employee training is equal. And not all of it has the desired results.

So what areas need to be covered? Most organizations that offer complete training programs tend to include modules on employee relations, time management, and project planning. These have the potential to improve the productivity of your workforce, lessen your own workload, and get your business running as smoothly as possible. Good for the employer.

But what do employees want to learn? Interest here is mainly around increasing performance. A recent Skillsoft survey from the UK found that 70% of workers view training as essential for developing skills that directly relate to their role. Meanwhile, 66% stated they expect training to make them better at their job. Perhaps the most notable finding from the Skillsoft survey was that employees do not expect this training to stop once they are no longer a new-starter. Some 68% felt workplace training was always relevant, regardless of seniority or time in service.

So training is not a one-off. It's an ongoing concern.

Related: How To Keep Employees Feeling Passionate About Their Work

Employee training to reduce your business costs

While many training programs are judged on employee benefit, businesses also see boosts from such initiatives. In fact, a reported 92 out of 96 Fortune 500 CEOs stated in 2011 that they took notice of the impact on their businesses from the various educational and development programs they were running.

So what exactly is in it for the employer? Well, as mentioned, one issue that is close to our hearts here in the UAE is staff retention. Comprehensive training programs have proven time and again to help lower staff turnover. A recent study by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development found that 95% of hiring managers considered employee training as a key retention tool – and it's not hard to see why. We know that employees actively want to be trained, and doing so boosts morale and increases worker happiness.

When we get down to actual figures, the case becomes even more convincing: A report by Oxford Economics puts the cost of a new hire at around $30,000. Meanwhile, the average spend of $1,500 per employee for ongoing training barely registers in comparison. Even aside from theory, there are real-world results such as telecommunications giant Motorola who calculated that for every dollar spent on staff training programs, they gained 30% in productivity. And that was just within three years.

As for the fear of training an employee only for them to leave, the Middlesex University study mentioned earlier has good news. Only 23% of workers stated that they viewed training as a way of increasing their skills before leaving for new employment.

Creating your ideal employee

How do you know if your training program is bringing results? First, make sure you continuously monitor your employee's engagement levels to decipher what is working and what is not. Secondly, try not to get too caught up on ROI alone. In reality, training programs have many other benefits aside from financial.

Finally, if you are currently working at an organization that is on the fence about whether to provide or improve an employee training scheme, ask yourself this: How many times have you heard people within that same organization complain about a skill shortage– or curse the fact that out of the 100+ applications received for the last role you advertised, only five were even close to being qualified?

There lies the single biggest reason why companies of all sizes must commit to training and developing their employees. Because if employers want highly talented, educated and skilled employees here in the UAE, then the answer is quite simple: we have to create them.

Related: Three Things To Remember When Managing Your Employees As A SME Owner In The UAE

Stephen Maclaren

Head of Regional Sales Employee Benefits, Al Futtaim Willis

Stephen Maclaren is the Head of Regional Sales Employee Benefits at Al Futtaim Willis. Stephen has more than 25 years of experience in the insurance industry, of which the past 11 have been spent in Dubai. He and his teams support some of the largest companies and organizations operating in the Gulf region and broker extensively in the areas of employee benefits and operational risks.
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