HANDING out long-service awards at official ceremonies is a tradition for many corporations.

It is a time to recognise and thank loyal staff for their years of contribution to the organisation.

However, such tributes may be dwindling as employees today are likely to change jobs after a few years.

According to a 2013 study by global management consultancy Hay Group, there has been an uptick in employee turnover rates in the Asia-Pacific.

The survey polled employees and asked if they were likely to leave their current job within the next two years.

For Singaporean participants, 15.6 per cent of them said “yes”.

The figures are even higher for Chinese and Indonesian employees, coming in at 21.3 per cent and 25.8 per cent respectively.    

The age-old dilemma then arises. Since there is no telling if potential star employees will seek greener pastures in the near future, should companies then funnel resources into honing their capabilities? 

First, let’s take a look at how training can benefit both the company and employees.

Training engenders benefits

Even in the face of an ebbing economy, training is an aspect that cannot be scaled back.

In the Forbes article “Want Your Company To Succeed in The Future? Invest In Employee Skills Training Like Deloitte LLP”, Ms Diana O’Brien, principal of Deloitte Consulting LLP, offered an analogy: Not upgrading professionals’ skills is akin to not upgrading equipment at a production line and still expecting improved productivity. 

The organisation is so dedicated to nurturing talents into future leaders that it has created DeloitteUniversity, which offers training programmes and simulation-based courses.

Beyond offering competitive salaries, what can employers do to ensure talent retention?

Continuous support for training and learning is an attractive incentive. Professionals appreciate it when companies take the time to develop their skills and enhance their professional standing.     

Believing in human capital

Investing in staff development is, of course, a win-win situation if an employee decides to advance his career with the company.

However, it is a norm for employees to see their current jobs as a springboard to bigger things.

What if they leave? Does that mean all the time and effort spent training them has been for naught?

Not quite. Think of it as doing your part for the greater good. And this greater good is in strengthening the human capital.

In The Human Capital Report, a 2013 report by the World Economic Forum, executive chairman Klaus Schwab said that the success and future of any country hinges on the “talent, skills and capabilities of its people”, adding that “talent shortages are ubiquitous”.

There is a pressing need to address these shortages and prevent them from becoming long-term problems.

Imagine if every company were cautious about training employees.

What will ensue, then, is a collective workforce that is undertrained and ill-prepared to tackle new challenges that arise.

When that happens, everyone loses. Finding a new qualified hire would be like trying to find a needle in a haystack.

The lowdown on training

Now then, how should you go about developing a training framework?

• Embody the right spirit of training

Mr Dan Carusi, vice-president of global learning for Deltek, said in the article “How To Create A Culture Of Self-learning” that financial rewards are not the right incentives to use when motivating staff to pursue training. Such a want must stem from a personal conviction that training would indeed benefit them in the long run.

However, he added, there is a need to publicly acknowledge any positive outcomes.

Glowing feedback from customers should be highlighted. A now-empowered staff taking on new roles and responsibilities is also a cause for celebration.

• Keep track of finances

While most companies believe in the power of continuous learning, budget is often a hindering factor.

Think of cost-cutting solutions that would enable more staff to be trained. For example, instead of enrolling the entire information technology team in the same course, consider bringing in an in-house trainer.

Also, many governments offer initiatives and schemes to help defray training costs.

In Singapore, the Skills Development Fund and Workfare Training Support Scheme, to name just a few, allow employers to enjoy subsidies when they send their staff for training.  

• Make your training engaging to employees

Training extends beyond teaching what is written in the manuals. Let employees run with their ideas. Creative thinkers enjoy setting challenging goals and then meeting them.

• Help employees stay relevant to the industry

In 1999, OCBC Singapore introduced the Continuing Education Scheme (CES) which encourages employees to continue upgrading their financial knowledge and skills through certification, diploma, degree or master’s programmes.

What is unconventional is that the CES comes with no strings attached; sponsored employees need not serve any bond after the training.

The head of learning and development, Ms Cassandra Cheng, explained that the bank is committed to “helping talented individuals pursue their ambitions”.

Some 80 per cent of OCBC employees stayed on even after furthering their education, quelling doubts that staff are likely to pack their bags after receiving sponsored training.

Evidently, the benefits of raising employees’ competencies are manifold.

Not only will they become more adept and productive, employees will develop a sense of loyalty to the company.

On a more macro view, when a workforce teems with qualified hires, organisations will thrive and, collectively, they can help drive economic growth.


Article by Nicholas Goh, founder and chief executive officer of Verztec Consulting, an ISO 9001:2008 global content consulting company. For more information, visit www.verztec.com