The Plastics Training Specialists

How to maximise your training budget in 2015

As mentioned in the previous article), training is commonly one of the first budgets that is cut when finances are tight. As dispensable as workforce training is regarded, there may be some potentially dangerous consequences to cutting training out of the annual budget, and more costly than training, is running a business with an untrained workforce. In light of it being the start of a new year, we have decided to put together a few tips which can be used when trying to maximise the training budget for 2015.   

Attend industry events and expos – one of the best ways for staff to keep up to date with the industry, without attending formal training, is by attending the industry events and expos, as there are often guest speakers and industry leaders there to share new trends or best practices. As the events are mostly held during business hours, it may be a good idea to send a representative from each department, who can then schedule a feedback session to relay any new information, and answer any questions that staff may have.

Besides industry events and expos where leaders share their experiences and advice, informal information sharing meetings can also be scheduled between staff in the business so that employees are able to learn from each other. So much happens in the working world every day, where staff are exposed to situations and circumstances that are often worth sharing with others for them to learn from, or in order to gather information to be able to handle that same situation differently next time. Experiences from fellow employees can be just as valuable to hear about and reflect on as those experiences talked about by the industry leaders at events and expos. An idea to formally schedule these information sharing sessions is to have a set time each month, or more often, where employees are encouraged to share one situation where there was a positive outcome, and one where there was a negative outcome, and then colleagues can suggest alternative solutions, or simply learn from their colleague’s experience. This will also assist with team building, and creating a positive company culture and sense of teamwork.

This being said, however, when it comes to training, even knowledgeable and experienced personnel can’t simply turn into good trainers for various reasons, as it takes a particular talent to be able to verbalise and illustrate certain principles and actions which can then be adequately understood by others.

Understand business and industry scarce skills and identify the business skills gap
By understanding where the skills are lacking in the business and industry as a whole, and by then measuring these up against the skills gaps visible in the business, it will be easier to see which are the skills that need to be focussed on, as it may be costly or harder to outsource those skills. By understanding which skills will be most valuable to have internally, and by upskilling well chosen people, the training budget can be maximised.

Another benefit of concentrating on upskilling where the industry scarce skills lie is that the staff being trained become more valuable, are able to contribute more, and assist in differentiating the business from others, which can lead to growth of the business.

Choose the right people to train
– Even if money is not a factor in training, time is. It takes both time and money to train staff, and businesses need as much of those two elements as possible to stay alive. Considering this, even if the path is clear in terms of what skills need to be addressed first, a decision still needs to be made on who is going to go on training and who will not. 

How do we decide this? 

It will be different for every organisation, as there are various hierarchies and histories to consider with each employee. The factors that will need to be considered will be the employees potential, if they currently hold a key role, and if upskilling that employee will result in a return on investment in the short term. The best way to assess these aspects of each employee would be to consider each department, and then look at each employee’s potential on an individual basis. You may need some help from direct managers for this task, as this information needs to be gathered from those working directly with the employees.

Arguably the most important point on this list is about choosing the training institution you plan on using VERY carefully. The money that has been allocated to spend on training needs to yield results, so it is of utmost importance that the training which is done is effective, and efficiently executed so as to keep employees off the “shop floor” for as little time as possible. An important task would be to check that the training institution is accredited with the appropriate SETA, and that there are legitimate references of past successful training interventions.

Ensure that the training course chosen to be delivered is the most appropriate and applicable for those attending, and ensure that the outcomes of the training are fully understood by the candidates attending the course.

Allow and encourage staff to learn from home – e-learning has made this task much easier for employers than it used to be. With the software available currently, reports of an employee’s track record, achievements and study-time can be easily pulled and reviewed, and those who are not performing or learning as they should be can be reprimanded or motivated. Learning outside of office hours is an important way of maximising your resources during work hours. Particularly if the department that needs training is a client-facing department, it may be hard to send a large part of the team to a workshop or training session where they will be missed from their usual position. Instead, offering incentives such as paying for the employee’s data costs can encourage the employees to make the time sacrifice after hours.

Another method that can be used to maximise the training budget for 2015 is to, as much as possible, hold more generic workshops, at work, for a large part of the workforce. The workshops can range between 2-4 hours, and may act as more of a refresher of knowledge and a platform for employees to ask questions and share experiences, but at least a large part of the workforce will be maintaining their skill, and do not have to be removed from the workplace.

Another way to reduce training costs is for the training to be held in-house, if there are training facilities available. This means that employees don't have to incur additional travelling costs and the company saves on venue costs. Often, samples and equipment can also be used from the factory/work environment which means that trainees relate better to what is being taught and are able to discuss real-time situations.

Maximise government funding and training incentive – Each industry has a SETA - Sector Education and Training Authority, which has the authority to hand out grants based on training that has taken place within an organisation. The purpose of the SETA’s is not only to regulate the training done in the businesses in the appropriate industry, but also to encourage training and upskilling of employees by offering grants and subsidies for training. In order to maximise the training grants that can be accessed, workplace skills plans need to be submitted to the relevant SETA, and other procedures such as an Annual Training Report at the end of the year must be drawn up and submitted so that a claim can be made for training done.
  As a training institution for the plastics industry, we understand that budgets for training are not endless, and we strive to optimise them as much as we can so that our clients see the return. Implementing a few of the above points this year will definitely help the Rands stretch further, and we would love to hear if any of the above tips have worked for you, and what the results were