Employee Training: Expense or Investment?

Zoe Training was recently featured in a Denver Business Journal article exploring whether employee training and development should be viewed an expense or an investment.

Although it’s easy in theory to say that employee development is an investment, as the report noted, “Despite some obvious advantages of training, some in the field say that in a tepid economy, employee development has been an easy line item to cross off.” According to Manpower’s  2010 Workforce Strategy Survey Global Key Findings (PDF), “Business leaders say they are focused on the professional development of their workforce yet this remains a weak spot for many organizations.  More than a third of employees say their organizations have not made training and development a priority.  A fifth say that training and development opportunity are inadequate for achieving the company’s business strategy–or are not provided at all.”

Ashley Andrus, President of Zoe Training, was quoted about the benefits of truly treating employee development in the same manner that your organization would view other capital expenditures and business performance strategies.  “The truth is, when you do it properly, it helps you align employee efforts with company initiatives, the same as you would build in marketing, sales, accounting, or product development.”

Thinking about training in the same way you categorize capital expenditure and new product development isn’t a traditional view–but the return on the investment for those efforts can be well worth the paradigm shift.  Not only can you increase performance and efficiency and serve your customers better, but you develop an internal culture that will help you grow your talent from the inside–and keep those star players as the economy continues to improve.  According to another 2010 survey by job-placement firm Manpower, 84 percent of employees plan to look for a new position in 2011.  If you were told that 84 percent of your physical plant or product stream was in jeopardy this year, you would be alarmed, and that same concern applies to your talent pool. As Andrus noted in the DBJ article, “training today relates directly to retaining those employees tomorrow.”

The bottom line is that right now there is a great opportunity for those organizations that work proactively to align their employee development strategies with their organizational performance objectives.  You can build employee skills and increase engagement at the same time, which is a win for you, your employees, and your customers.