Employee development during tough times

Matthias Ruziwa : H R Issues

The rapid changing business environment in Zimbabwe has resulted in most organisations employing cost effective strategies for sustainability of operations.In the circumstances, HR has been under pressure to fit within the cost reduction equation. Labour cost reduction has been characterised by slashing of salaries, freezing of talent acquisition, exemption applications to National Employment Councils for minimum wage increases, retrenchments, avoidance of overtime work etc. Whilst all this has been happening, business leaders in some situations have been seen compromising on training budgets forgetting that there is definite need to balance between economic value and organisational capability. It is more likely that due to economic pressures currently affecting most organisations, HR professionals are struggling to convince leadership to invest in training and development.

In this article the writer will make an attempt to address possible ways which may be considered to sustain employee development programs even when economic times are difficult.

· Every normal business` starting point is a strategic plan. HR needs to closely pay attention to the contents of the strategic plan document. The employee development plan should then clearly state proposed deliverables linked to the strategic plan. This may include a SWOT analysis that will help to justify appropriate training. Once this is done, it is then easy to construct a budget which must be supported by analysis of benefits to the organisation so that the business leaders can better understand how your training calendar will positively impact the return on their investment.

· Management always have SMART objectives at the centre stage of the strategic plan document. From my experience, corporate objectives revolve around improved performance, productivity, quality, customer satisfaction, growth of the business etc. Once the HR department has acquainted itself with the corporate objectives, it can then develop targeted training programs in place of the traditional curvilinear training programs. Under the current environment, I suggest that priority be given to compliance training, marketing and sales, as well as leadership skills training. HR must also design on-boarding procedures and new-hire training which ensures employees will be knowledgeable and focused on such issues like quality standards and customer satisfaction. Remember the employee is the king, if the employee is well equipped; the customer is bound to be happy.

· Business linkages and partnerships are essential approaches to consider. HR must partner with institutions like National Social Security Authority (NSSA), Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, National Employment Councils etc. for compliance training. These bodies do not charge exorbitant fees for delivering training materials. In addition, HR needs to strongly network with lecturers from their local universities and colleges. These are professionals who are trained in instructional design and they can work with your company`s employee development experts to create useful and professional instructional materials. HR must also ensure that their supervisors are well trained in coaching and mentoring skills as they are responsible for employees` training.

· The employee`s voice is of utmost importance with regards to organisational capability. Some organisations have virtually collapsed just because of leadership that does not pay heed to ideas engineered by the workforce. Research has stated that the best source of information about your organisation`s performance and needs are your employees. They know about past, current and future happenings in the organisation and what should be changed. They appreciate being valued and will certainly provide feedback about what could be eliminated or what could be better.

· Business leaders are justified when they insist in wanting to cut the training budget. The reason is they might not have seen results from your previous training programs. Successful companies measure outcomes to make sure they are improving the shareholders` wealth. When HR designs the training programs, it must incorporate the corresponding attitudes and behaviours being looked for and measure on the job to determine whether or not employees indeed learnt how to perform in the best manner. One of the reasons why employee development programs do not yield the desired results is the usual question from employees “What`s in it for me”?

HR must ensure that its training programs are linked to employee satisfaction. There is need to celebrate achievements and successes. Everyone in the organisation must know what it means when someone has accomplished a training course in terms of growth opportunities. This generates maximum participation from everyone and you will be surprised that some of the employees could actually help you deliver training as experts in their own right or could help you in evaluating their colleagues.

There is no doubt that organisations in Zimbabwe are passing through tough economic times. Training programs obviously costs money and because of competing budgets from various departments in the company, HR needs to align the organisation with its dreams. It is more likely that some HR practitioners fail to succeed in securing money for training programs because they fear their proposals are always turned down by the business leaders. No, what you need to do as HR is to present analysis that have bearing on the bottom line. Whenever you are arguing your training budget, make it a point that you have in-depth understanding of analysis that point to return on investment (ROI).

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author

Matthias Ruziwa is an experienced and progressing Strategic Human Resource Practitioner based in the Midlands Province, City of Kwekwe.

You can contact Matthias at the following email address:

[email protected] <mailto:[email protected]> /whatsapp 0773 470 368

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