Maggie Owens, Managing Director HR Services, Southern & Central Europe & Talent Management, EMEA

How much did you spend last time you bought a new car? I’m willing to bet that as you drove it off the forecourt you had every intention of investing in it – having it regularly washed, waxed and serviced and, in the event of a scrape; you would probably have it fixed. Of course you would, a car is a big investment and, treated properly, you will be able to rely on it for many years to come.

Now, I probably don’t need to tell you, but the average member of staff costs far more than your car. If you want to keep them shiny and new for years to come then training and development is key. A recent study in the Harvard Business Review, however, shows that there is still a significant career-development gap with employee expectations of training and mentoring not being met. The outcome? Businesses are failing to retain talent.

For any HR Directors who have read all the newspaper coverage about unemployment and, as such, believe there is a waist-deep talent pool out there to pluck replacements from at will, think again. Talent is of course out there but various estimates put the average cost of a new hire at around £5,000.

At FedEx Express we are continually investing considerable resource into learning and development which enables us to not only retain but maximise our team. When compiling a learning and development programme it is vital to consider two key aspects.

i. There is no one size fits all approach. Individuals naturally learn different aspects, in different ways, at different speeds. This should not be considered a reflection on how ‘good’ someone is. Take driving tests for example. Some pass their theory test first time but not their practical and vice versa. A little way down the line this is rarely a reflection on how good a driver will be.

ii. Think holistically – lifelong learning. Laying out the ongoing training options at the outset of an individual’s career enables them to see clearly the path they can take, the future they can have and the opportunities that exist for them if they remain with your business.

So at FedEx Express we kick off with what we call ‘Welcome to our world’. If new hires are to feel like a valued part of the team from day one, orientation needs to be so much more than just a tour of the office (although the location of the kettle should never be overlooked). We see this as an opportunity to start as we mean to go on…

Technical skills training is typically industry-specific and, for many, a given so I will skip over this and go straight to management training.

Not every employee sees themselves in a management role down the line, but we feel that every one who does should have the opportunity to develop the skills, knowledge and key competencies required to be a successful manager within the business. This of course takes time, resources, mentoring and a variety of learning experiences. We make no apologies for the fact that this is not easy training. Management is not an easy task so the associated learning should be rigorous and demand significant commitment.

Over the last few years, gratifyingly, we have seen a significant number of employees who have undertaken this training move into management roles from a variety of departments.

But training shouldn’t stop once a management role has been achieved; it becomes more important than ever. At this stage the requirement should certainly be less prescriptive. If an individual has proven their mettle by making it this far they are more than capable of creating a personal development strategy for their new leadership role. The tools and mentoring from here on should act as compass, harness and anchor.

In addition to all this, many learning opportunities exist outside the scope of what an employer can reasonably provide. Tuition assistance – reimbursing employees for training and qualifications they’ve chosen under their own steam – is to many a very desirable benefit, and it can be win-win. Employers will naturally need to pre-approve the course and find a framework that best suits everyone’s needs. In our case, we request that courses fit the employee’s work schedule and demonstrably support their career advancement plan. They should also result in a relevant degree, diploma or certificate.

While this scope and scale of L&D provision is not feasible, or indeed necessary, for all organisations, I don’t believe there is a business in operation today that does not need a defined training policy. Incidentally, a footnote on an employment contract stating that ‘On-job-training will be provided” is not a training policy!

As a starter for ten, ask yourself the following five questions:

    1. Do you know what financial investment is available for training per person, per annum?
    2. What mandatory training must be undertaken to do the job at hand?
    3. Are your team aware of their eligibility for non-mandatory training programmes?
    4. What feedback procedure is in place?
    5. What qualifications/certificates can be achieved?