Employee Training, with Christy Matheson

Session Moderator: Thanks for joining us today for our workshop on employee training. We are excited that Christy Matheson, a human resources specialist with AtWork Solutions could join us today. Christy brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to our topic.

Christy Matheson: Hello- I’m glad that you are attending today. I hope that this information will helpful to you. Please let me know if you have questions or input along the way.

The firm I work for, AtWork Solutions, is a consulting firm that focuses on two main areas:
Training; mainly around technology (Oracle, Peoplesoft, other customizable software packages) and
Performance Development; assisting firms in building their culture, career development and employee skills.

In my experience, there are two mistakes that organizations seem to make:

1.Companies fail to see the importance of training and how that impacts their retention rates and overall success as a firm or
2.Companies see the value of training but implement a training solution without really considering their objectives and culture.

I want to address both of these issues today.

First, companies failing to see the importance of training.

Training and Development are such hot topics right now that you have all probably heard the buzzwords surrounding these types of issues.

Session Moderator: Christy- do you think that employers don't realize that they need to consider these issues? Or do you think they just ignore them? Or do they not want to spend the money?

Christy Matheson: I think its all 3 of those things. When you realize that something is important- you are generally more willing to spend money on it. Especially when it is costing you money to have less that optimal employee performance. I still see organizations that don't understand that training and development issues are important- believe it or not.

In terms of content, there are two main types of training out there- technology and “soft skills.” In the end, the objective is the same: increase the skills of your employees. The benefit of training to the bottom line of a firm’s financials should be obvious. The more skilled your employees are, the more effective they can be and in turn, you should keep your clients more satisfied and create more or extended business.

However, sometimes the benefit to employee retention isn’t as clear. It’s no secret that retention impacts the bottom line as well. According to the American Management Association, the cost to replace an employee who leaves is, conservatively, 30% of his annual salary.

Session Moderator: It's important to set up the employee for a win situation, right Christy? Training can help.

Christy Matheson: ABSOLUTELY! No one wants to feel as though they are not equipped to meet and exceed the expectations of their position.

In addition to retaining current employees, a solid training program, like a corporate university or other skill development plan, is an EXCELLENT recruiting tool. These types of programs will allow you to attract the kind of people that will work best within your organization. If you recruit the right kinds of people from the start, typically, your attrition rates will be far lower - that is a huge win for all parties. In addition to new recruits, your established employees will be able to see that your firm has a culture that is focused on growing and developing them.

Session Moderator: Christy, do you think this is more important than ever with the low unemployment rate?

Christy Matheson: Yes- especially in highly competitive recruiting arenas like technology and accounting. Anything that your organization does to set itself apart is helpful.

Training is a hot button for the Gen Y crowd coming out of school right now. I recently read an article from CFO magazine (September 2000) that talked about retention in several organizations. One of the companies that they mentioned was Cellular One in San Francisco. Their finance department saw a 4% decrease in attrition when they implemented an aggressive training program. 4% may not seem like much but the turnover rate in the Silicon Valley for financial employees is 20-25%.

Session Moderator: Wow! The associated costs are high, too.

Christy Matheson: Yes, they are. If you apply the 30% of annual salary model, the expense is staggering.

Secondly, companies implementing a training program that doesn’t take their objectives into consideration.

Training is great. However, if you haven’t taken your objectives and corporate culture into consideration, it is going to be almost impossible to realize maximum benefit from this training.

The recommendation that we make to our clients who are considering a training program, primarily a “soft skills” program, is to take a few steps back first.

Session Moderator: Do you think that's why firms would benefit from working with a
third party? Someone who can help them take an unbiased look at the firm?

Christy Matheson: Yes! You need someone that your employees can be open with and that can look at all of your current programs without emotional attachment to what has been developed

Before you just put classes out there for people to attend- you should have a solid career development model in place.

Session Moderator: So training complements a whole employee-oriented system?

Christy Matheson: Yes, training is only a tool- it's not the whole "ball of wax" so to speak.

Christy Matheson: A career development model (CDM) should outline job descriptions, competencies required to be successful in each role, cultural guidelines of your organization (i.e.: mission statements, core values), and review procedures.

If you don't know what your objectives are then training is going to be wasted breath.

MFerguson: How would you focus your recruiting so that you get people who understand the fast pace of modern product development?

Christy Matheson: The career development model will help to identify what is truly important to your organization. Using a tool like a CDM is great for recruiting as well. You show the specific competencies that are important for success in your firm. One of the competencies that AtWork lists is organizational agility- an ability to change drastically and rapidly. You recruit against these competencies and it saves you a great deal of hiring heartache in the long run. The CDM allows you to provide classes that focus on what will really make your employees successful vs. what sounds good on paper. Your CDM becomes the overall objective of your training.

Even if you are working with technology training, you can see that the skills people need to learn can tie directly back to what the important traits for their position are. As I mentioned before, AtWork has implemented our own career development model. It has been incredibly helpful with the evaluation process and recruiting.

Session Moderator: Can that model be easily molded for any type of company?

Christy Matheson: Yes- all companies have a variety of positions, competencies that are required for each position, a culture to work with. Although the information in the end product differs greatly, the structure is amazingly similar from manufacturing environments to high level consulting organizations. We have also spun our corporate university from our career development model.

It has been amazing to see how effective our hiring processes and training programs are since we have done this. The CDM really acts as the glue that brings all of our employee development efforts together

Session Moderator: Could you share some success statistics with us?

Christy Matheson: Related to our firm, in about 6 months from the time we implemented a full career development model we saw an increase in the effectiveness of our evaluations. We also saw an increase in our up sell potential with clients because we felt a higher level of confidence in the types of staff that we had recruited as well as our development opportunities for our current team. We also changed much of the training that we were offering internally- we began to focus on higher-level skill development instead of some of the basic skills that we had focused on prior because of a lack of direction in recruiting.

Session Moderator: Do you have quantifiable statistics? Revenues?

Christy Matheson: Not at this point. I think we will really see the fruit of that as we get some of our new employees, recruited under this model, up and running on long term client assignments.

My recommendations are:

1.Take an honest look at your current training and development programs. Does your firm at large see these as important? Do you need an outside party to do an assessment of these programs?
2. If you do view training as important, how did your training program come about?
3. Do you feel that your current training programs are effective? Are they taking your corporate culture and employee competencies into account?
4. Do you have a tool, like a career development model, that allows your organization to filter all training and development through common objectives?

What questions can I address for any of you?

Session Moderator: It looks like your workshop was thorough and addressed all of our questions, Christy!

Is there an email address where others may contact you?

Christy Matheson: Sure- my email is cmatheson@atwork-solutions.com or you can take a look at our web site at www.atwork-solutions.com

Session Moderator: Thanks for being here today - we appreciate it! You've given us a lot to think about.

Christy Matheson: Thank you all for participating.

Session Moderator: I also want to thank everyone else for being here today.

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