“Why ‘training’ is one of the most ignored, yet most vital parts of the modern system”
Employees are some of the most valuable resources that an organization can possess. We have all heard this adage multiple times, and from multiple sources. However, regardless of how good an employee was when he or she was first hired (No company knowingly hires bad employees after all), the fact remains that just like a diamond needs to be polished from time to time in order for it to maintain its lustre, the employee also needs consistent training and development — both during his formative years while in a school or college, and also during his tenure at the organization.
Stagnant things, after all, are no good. And this fact can’t be any truer, than in connection to the corporate world, where skills and requirements change every day. New technologies, new methodologies, and new approaches to tackling problems and projects emerge every day. How can a company hope to ensure product viability, customer satisfaction, and stay on top of the cut-throat competition, if its employees aren’t well-versed with the latest ways of approaching problems? How can an educational institution hope to supply companies with placement worthy employees, unless and until it takes pains to ensure that the would-be-employees (or its students) are being given training, which is practical as well as theoretical?
Educational Institutions focusing on theory, at the cost of practical knowledge:
The Indian education system is well known for its rigorous curriculum, and for the quality of scholars it produces. Why is it then, that the cream of the Indian education system prefer to finish their education abroad, away from the country where they were born and bred? And why do they appear to flourish abroad? Look at top executives from the SIlicon Valley, every other is an Indian. A significant portion of the global workforce of scientists and engineers are Indians.
Move back home, however, and the situation is much more dismal. The vast majority of technical and managerial students from India are unemployable. Lacking technical skills, lacking even the most basic communication skills, and often driven to the ground by huge student loans, these students find their dreams crumbling the moment their education completes. Why? Simply because their college could not be bothered enough to skill them. Today, educational institutions have become factories that take in raw students along with hundreds of thousands of rupees in fees from one end, and churn out utterly unemployable, would-be employees from the other.
And this is not the story of a couple of colleges in backward, far-flung areas. On the other hand, this is the story of 95 out of 100 colleges. The Indian education system has become redundant and obsolete to the degree where passing exams is a feat achieved by a couple of days of study, and nothing, absolutely nothing is provided with regards to industry exposure, real life training, or even the most basic of skills needed by the corporate world — good communication skills.
The situation can best be summed up in terms of someone I spoke to recently, a person who has recently passed out from one of Lucknow’s most prominent private engineering colleges:
“Most of my teachers were graduates of the college I was studying in. Indeed, the first electrical engineering teacher we got, boasted in his very first class, that he had failed the very subject he was hired to teach, a few years ago. Classes in the college required mandatory attendance, but all that took place inside these classrooms was note taking from books that were outdated by at least 15 years. Our practical labs were severely under equipped and we were not allowed to touch anything for fear of “damaging them”. Is it surprising then, that after spending 4 years and half a million rupees, only 2 students were placed out of my batch of 120 — and that too in underpaid jobs in IT companies?”
Organizations choosing to remain oblivious to the need for training:
Unfortunately enough, many companies choose to close their eyes to these highly obvious facts, simply because of the expenses entailed in the training process. True, training employees is no piece of cake, and depending upon the area of training in question, it can be notoriously expensive. What’s more, businesses by their very nature are focussed more on short term gains rather than long term gains. And employee development and training is one investment with no visible ROI — at least in the short term. As such, it is hardly a surprise that companies can be leery of investing resources into what they deem to be a mostly futile exercise.
However, organizations are not the only ones to blame. Employees and the management, are often equally disinterested in organizing and attending training and development sessions. At first glance, it may seem rather strange. After all, why would an employee be uninterested in participating in an exercise that will make him/her better at performing their task? The answer, as well as the blame, lies again with today’s corporate culture — which places significantly greater emphasis on short term gains, as compared to long term output.
True, companies often have induction courses for new employees — which are sort of a fast track introduction to the kind of role the employee is expected to play within the whole organizational machinery. However, the intent of such courses is more to allow the employee to hit the ground running as compared to actually groom him. Most of these courses lay a lot of stress upon the particular company actually conducting them, and while the employee does benefit from attending them, the benefits mostly extend to his/her tenure in the same organization.
To sum up, the major issues that currently prevent most companies from implementing productive employee training programs in place are:
- Greater focus on short-term gains being part and parcel of corporate culture for the majority of companies.
- Lack of initiative and effort from the manager’s side.
- Training programs if any, focus more upon grooming the employee for his/her role within the organization, as opposed to grooming him as an individual.
- Excuses and lack of interest put up by the employees themselves.
While companies often can justify this sort of an attitude towards employee development with a variety of arguments, employees do not appreciate such treatment. Studies have shown time and again that organizations that offer more conducive, and more rich environments to employees with regards to the growth of their personality, often tend to be more attractive destinations for them.
Some strategies that can, and should be deployed to make the workplace an avenue of growth for the employees are as follows:
- Inoculating interest in employees by informing and educating them, with regards to the benefits of being better trained.
- Initiating well-structured programs and courses that focus on improving the employee as an individual as compared to perfecting him as a cog in the overall machinery.
- Managers should be encouraged to take an active role in the overall improvement and growth of their employees by participating in one on one sessions to determine areas with a scope of growth.
The advantages of improving the individual employees that collectively power the whole organizational machinery should, of course, be obvious. The benefits are many and varied, however, some of the more important of them are summed up as under:
- Employees really appreciate the fact that their organization is taking an interest in their individual development. This fosters loyalty towards the company.
- Employee training programs have been shown to reduce discontent and dissatisfaction, and lead to longer employee retention.
- By ensuring that your employees are constantly updated with the latest trends and developments in your niche, you will also ensure that your company stays ahead of the competition.
- Encouraging employees to participate in group sessions aimed at improving their productivity will also lead to casual friendships, which will make your office a much better, and more fun place to work in.
Deploying third-parties to bridge the gap between educated, and employable:
How can the situation be rectified? After all, neither the companies nor the educational system can be expected to change themselves instantly. How then, can students passing out of colleges and educational institutions be made employable? Well, one obvious solution that presents itself to the mind, are third party recruiting agencies.
Look at it this way, third party recruitment agencies are intimately connected with the corporate world considering that it is the ultimate source of demand for them. Considering this, recruiters and training and development firms, need to constantly stay on top of the requirements of the corporate world. On the other side of the coin, they are also intimately connected with educational institutions and colleges, since they are one of the largest sources from where the demand for new employees is supplied.
In view of this, it is as much in the favor of the recruiter, as it is in favor of the educational institution or the company, to ensure that the student, and then the employee, is well trained and, is employable as well as educated. Colleges can make use of this fact by engaging with prominent recruiters and consulting them with regards to their syllabus. Poised close to the fast paced corporate world, recruiters will be very well placed to provide highly targeted, effective advice to the educational institutions. This will not only lead to an improvement in the college’s syllabus and thus increase its standing, but it will also ensure that the students are employable, and know how to comport themselves in the corporate world.
From the companies perspective, getting third-parties like recruiters to train their current staff, will ensure that the employees learn about trends outside his/her organization. This will also empower the latter to network with individuals outside their organization, with many of the relationships thus fostered, coming in handy during the course of his/her work.
I would like to conclude the article with the following conversation that took place between the CEO of a prominent firm, and one of his HR managers, and which aptly underlines the importance of employee training:
“While discussing the costs of training and developing employees, the manager asks the CEO “We are spending so many resources, and so much money training our employees. What if they become good as a result of our training and then leave for better positions, elsewhere?” The CEO smiles and replies, “ Well, you know what would be worse? What if we don’t (train them), and they don’t (leave)?”