From education to employment

Reports of a decline in business spending on employee training unsurprising

James Sutton CIM

Recent findings from the New Economics Foundation (NEF) have revealed a significant decline in overall business spending on employee training, which has fallen by a fifth over the last decade. This comes as no surprise to the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM).

The 21st century suffers from a pervasive short-sightedness. A focus on instant gratification blinds us to important investments and solutions that would deliver greater value in the longer term. Unfortunately, the recent findings from the NEF have served to further emphasise just how prevalent this short-term mindset is amongst employers when it comes to developing talent.

The problems with a short-term approach to training

As a training provider, CIM has unique insight into fluctuating spending on training which is often one of the first things cut when economic conditions are challenging. In the fast moving marketing industry, the quarter-to-quarter mentality can leave businesses on the back foot where they find themselves plugging skills gaps rather than building in long term capability.

There is often a disconnect between the training enquiries and requests we receive and the problem the business requesting training is actually trying to solve. Many training and investment decisions are made off the cuff. They are reactive decisions made with short term goals in mind. This approach to training ignores the elephant in the room and doesn’t address the long term needs of the business.

Employers can benefit from investing in employees

To unlock the potential of high performing teams, employers need to take a step back when considering any capability development decisions and ask themselves some searching questions. The most important of which is why are they training their staff in the first place. Is it to drive higher productivity levels? Is it so that the business can leverage emerging technologies? Following this, decision makers need to ask how training will this help the organisation to achieve its long term ambitions for growth. A clear objective linked to the business’ strategy will ensure that limited budgets are spent effectively and deliver the best returns.

CIM’s CMO75 research report identified skills shortages, recruitment and staff retention as the three biggest challenges facing marketing leaders. This combination can prove devastating to businesses. Losing staff members risks lulls in productivity, loss of knowledge and expertise and increased workloads leading to stress and burnout. Replacing staff members can also prove challenging and incur expensive recruitment fees. A focus on developing employees through training opportunities improves employee satisfaction and engagement and can reduce churn – but the key to unlocking the power of this approach is to ensure that training is aligned with the business’ long term goals.

Align training with strategy

The evolving needs of the marketing industry are a continual reminder of the critical need for businesses to understand the importance of building in capability rather than just training staff. Businesses need to take a long term view on this issue. There is no shortcut. Organisations need to invest time, effort and resources into developing an understanding of their skills gaps and aligning employee training against this, and their ambitions for growth.

Through making this crucial investment and ensuring they develop their people in line with the strategic objectives of the business, employers can unlock productivity gains in teams and ensure they have the technical skills, knowledge and mindset needed to give their organisations the best possible chances in today’s fiercely competitive market.  

James Sutton, Strategy and Commercial Director, CIM

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