After the axe

Finding and retaining quality people is the biggest challenge employers face, according to the Workplace Practices survey conducted by SBN Magazine and the Employers Resource Council.

More than 25 percent of the business owners and human resources managers who responded are concerned about finding skilled workers, double the number in last year’s survey.

With companies well aware of the problems they face attracting and keeping employees, it is no surprise that 84 percent of companies surveyed include financial subsidies for training and education as one of their perks.

Part of the impetus to subsidize employee training comes from the recent economic downturn. Cutbacks and layoffs have left fewer staff members with more work, but the average corporate training budget this year have dipped only two-tenths of one percent from 2000.

Training and education are seen as win-wins for both the employees and the employer. Employees add to their skill base, while employers get a better-educated employee. Doing more with fewer people is the part of the drive behind in-house training programs and the increasingly popular Web-based training.

As senior director of solutions marketing for SmartForce, Rajeev Venkat has noticed a trend toward more job-specific training, in part, he believes, because it provides the biggest bang for the buck for employers.

SmartForce, a California-based company, works closely with key Ohio-based businesses such as Procter & Gamble, Kroger and Iams. The global training provider generated $168 million in revenue last year providing individualized Web-based training programs.

Myers University has also seen an increase in adult learning, says Joyce McGrath, dean of Myers’ Academic Centers. Myers is keeping pace with the trend by introducing online learning for both undergraduate and graduate degrees, as well as a corporate university to give job-specific training on site.

As McGrath sees it, education is leaning toward skill-specific learning. She explains, “People are going for the degree that is going to get them what they want, get them the jobs they want,” in areas such as information management and information technology.

Corporate-driven education doesn’t stop with the employee; more and more, it involves every level of the business.

“It’s an extended enterprise. They (companies) also want to train their partners, suppliers and customers,” says Venkat. “Trained customers are actually going to be better customers.”

Even traditional manufacturing companies are training suppliers in conjunction with employees as they introduce new technologies. Without the inclusion of all those involved, Venkat says “the supplier becomes the weak link in the chain.”

Both employers and employees are continuing to look to continuing education and training to increase skills and productivity.

“Executives have always been saying people are our most valuable asset,” says Venkat. “I think they’ve finally taking action to support those statements, and one of them is training.”

How to reach: Myers University, (216) 696-9000; SmartForce, (888) 395-0014

Deborah Garofalo ([email protected]) is associate editor of SBN Magazine.