So, your firm can’t find enough qualified personnel. You blame the government, universities and competitors for this but did you ever think it’s partly a self-induced problem? Maybe what’s driving the dearth in talented workers is an equally large absence of employer provided training. Complaining is not a solution to this skills shortage issue – action is!
While clearing out some old files, I discovered old training records of mine during my Accenture (nee Andersen Consulting/ Arthur Andersen) days. I knew then that the company invested heavily in training its people and possibly spent more than most firms. The firm had its own training division, training center, etc. Even as a fresh out of college lad, I knew I’d be more marketable and skilled by working there than at some of the other firms that made a run at me. I was right.
I was with the company for 18 years. In the first seven years, I completed 1202 hours of training. That represented approximately 8.6% of my total available hours. Some of that training was self-study and some was in classrooms. A detailed recap of those first seven years is at the end of this piece.
Here are some important points to ponder:
- When I joined the Consulting Division all those years ago, they only had approximately 3400 consultants globally. Yet, they still had a monumental amount of training available. Small company size is NOT an excuse for failing to have a comprehensive training program.
- Training was core to the growth of the company. When I left the partnership, it had grown to over 65,000 employees. Today the company has over 394,000 employees You can’t grow aggressively by waiting for competitors and others to develop the people you need. To take control of one’s destiny, you must take ownership of the talent and leadership development processes.
- Starting in my seventh year, I became an instructor at different courses. A year or two later, I was helping construct new content and new courses. I’m sure, someone, somewhere at Accenture is seeing me right now on some video explaining business process reengineering or other matters. This is important as the best teachers and content may already exist within your own firm. Are you doing everything you can to get their knowledge and experience transferred to as many people as possible? Shouldn’t you?
- The leadership development and training processes are interrelated. It always amazed my non-Accenture friends how we could fly to distant cities all over the world, show up at a client and be productive within the hour. That was because we all possessed a shared training background, methods, education and skillset. Our leaders had the same background, too. I miss the bench strength that Accenture possessed. There were always dozens of highly skilled individuals at every level of the firm. The firm built its own leaders. Does your firm build its own bench or must it always look elsewhere for new leaders? The answer to that question will shed a lot of light on the success or failure of your training efforts.
Today’s debates re: skills/talent shortages are long on emotion and short on strategic thinking.
Some companies do not have training/leadership development programs because they’re cheap. That’s right – they see people as costs – not assets. As a result, they’d rather distribute all earnings to shareholders now rather than build up the capabilities of their workforce.
Some companies claim that the nature of work is too dynamic and volatile. As a result, they don’t know what their manpower requirements are going to be from one day to the next. Therefore, they don’t plan and they don’t train. Somehow, they HOPE others are training people for the just-in-time skills they’ll need someday. Unfortunately, if those new skills don’t arrive in time and en masse, then the company can fail. The overused cliché “Hope is not a strategy” is appropriate in this context. I have never believed this argument. Planning is something that is hard to get right and takes time – do it! A failure to plan is a corporate death sentence.
Some argue that they do offer training – it’s all just-in-time. That won’t work either. I had someone come to my home to install a big screen television. He told me he had never done one before but was going to watch ‘internet videos’ to get up to speed on it. No way was I going to trust my brand new $1,000 television to a novice. Just-in-time training works for some skills and needs but not all. If you’re an experienced appliance repair person, I’m fine with you consulting a just-in-time tool to point out some weird nuances with the particular appliance that’s malfunctioning. However, some skills, like customer interaction/satisfaction training, basic business understanding, etc. are not just-in-time but core capabilities all employees should have. Training is an amalgam of techniques, capabilities and content that needs to be tailored to the role and the person. One-size fits all won’t cut it.
Look at my training curriculum (below) from all those years ago. Does your firm offer anything close? What resources would be required to create something 25% as intense? Could you get your executives and board to support it? If you’re not building the leaders and skills for tomorrow, then where will those skills come from? Training IS a corporate responsibility – it’s just one that fewer firms have the courage to accept.
A review of my early career training at Accenture
- First year: I completed 475 hours (out of an annual 2000 hours) of training that year. I took courses in:
- Effective writing
- Online design
- IMS DB
- Data administration
- Detailed design
- Programming management
- Revenue systems
- Word processing
- Code review techniques
- Documentation techniques
- Systems projects administration
- Assembler Language
- RPG Language
- Oil & Gas Industry
- And more
- Second year: I completed another 274 hours of training. I took courses in:
- Computer performance
- Data storage
- Computer testing
- Ethical standards/Independence
- Data communication
- Professional practices
- Technical architecture
- Operating systems
- Automated application development aids
- Work measurement
- Functional analysis
- Process design tools
- Data analysis
- Estimating guidelines
- Expenditure systems
- Revenue process
- And more
- Third year: That year I got married and had a huge conversion project. Nonetheless, I clocked in 80 hours of training in these subjects:
- Data dictionary design
- Cost accounting
- Treasury systems
- General ledger
- Database design
- And more
- Fourth year: another 104 hours of training in these and other subjects:
- Information planning
- Controls design
- Cost management
- And more
- Fifth year: 81 more training hours
- Project quality assurance
- Client service
- PL/1 programming language
- And more
- Sixth year: 87 more training hours
- Computer crime/fraud
- Practice methodology
- Office automation and electronic data processing
- Materials management
- Artificial Intelligence
- Application economics
- And more
- Seventh year: 101 more training hours
- Financial accounting software
- Master limited partnerships
- Transaction systems
- Practice methods
Image credit - training concept © cacaroot via fotolia