‘Workplace training’: two words which are liable to send shivers down every manager’s spine. Not because they’re against their employees learning, of course not; but that it eats up hours upon hours of time and can cost a lot of money. Yet there’s no disputing the benefits of workplace training in terms of staff retention, filling skills gaps, improved productivity and competitive edge.

Should you invest in workplace training? Yes. The amount you invest, however, is questionable.

How much should you spend on employee training?

How long is a piece of string? There’s no set answer to this question; it depends on what it will take to meet your overall objectives. After all, there are countless different training options available. You might be able to develop an in-house workshop at the fraction of the cost of an external alternative. Or your requirements might be so niche, that only one, very expensive course is available. When it comes to developing employees, cost shouldn’t be the deciding factor; meeting your (pre-identified) goals should be key.

Getting a return on your investment

No doubt you’ll be required to justify the expense to a superior or finance manager. To ensure that it’s worthwhile and to show a healthy return on investment there are several things it’s important to do:

1. Identify your training goals.

There are many reasons to undertake learning. Perhaps it’s to boost staff morale, promote retention and serve as an attraction tool. Maybe there is a training need that must be met? Perhaps it’s a regulatory requirement. It might be a reputation-boosting tactic. Or it could be as simple as setting the challenge to boost the individual’s chances of promotion. Regardless of the reason, it’s important to identify and understand the motive behind the training requirement before enrolling.

2. Research the options

As mentioned above there are many routes to learning, from an external, recognised qualification such as a Masters in Management, to a virtually cost-free internal mentorship. To ensure you get the most out of your training budget, you/the individual employee should research the available options. ‘Free’ schemes, i.e. job shadowing, workshops and knowledge share sessions (to name but a few) can go a long way towards meeting those training objectives. They can act as ‘quick fixes’ which are open to all and don’t eat up too many people hours. That said, they don’t necessarily have a great deal of credibility, not like a professional qualification. Either way, providing your chosen training option delivers against your objectives, you shouldn’t need to worry about value for money.

3. Make employees sign a ‘contract’

One of the biggest fears line managers face is a newly-trained employee jumping ship – and taking that education with them. To prevent this from happening, create a ‘contract’ which ties the employee into staying with the company for X months or face paying back the course fees. It’s not unusual, nor unreasonable, to ask the employee to pledge to remain at the company for a year after their course has been completed. This also makes unsure employees think twice about taking up any study, saving the business money.

4. Create objectives to demonstrate on-going business benefits

To ensure the training request is relevant and delivers some kind of return on investment, then tie individuals’ work objectives in with their learning. Putting some kind of measurement in place is imperative; metrics that can monitor how and where the learning is applied every day. Clear links between the training and role responsibilities can persuade those who have to sign off the expenses, but also reiterate to the employee that the learning should be used to improve their performance at work.

Should you invest in workplace training? Most definitely. How much depends entirely on your budget and your overall goals.

By Elizabeth Smythe

About the author

Elizabeth Smythe, Senior Brand Journalist, is a CIPD-qualified content specialist from the South Coast of England. When she’s not writing, she can usually be found baking enormous cakes.