At the time of writing, the news is not good. Some of our industry’s well established companies have announced staff cut backs and the Trades Union Congress (TUC) stating that training cuts will damage the UK workforce. 

The TUC insist that drastic cuts in government spending are likely to have a negative impact on Britain’s working skills base, claiming that the vision of CBI (a lobbying organisation for UK business) for a more skilled workforce is hardly likely to materialise if the government cuts back on training grants and employers refuse to stump up to train staff.

Over many years of developing people’s skills in the travel industry, I have heard the excuse from senior managers: “If we train them up, they’ll leave!” However, no-one has ever provided evidence for this limiting belief.

In fact, according to research from the Department for Work and Pensions, undergoing training increases the rate of employee retention, particularly among older workers, aged 50 or above, who continue to enjoy increasing rates of training provision.

According to Mike Campbell, director of research and policy for UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES), “Many employers haven’t got the message that skills and how they are managed are key to success.”

A 2008 study found that a 10% increase in business investment in HR management, training and management practices equated on average to:

  • An increase in gross profits per employee of between £1,139 and £1,284. 
  • An increase in profit margins per employee of between 1.19% and 3.66% (i.e. the ratio of profit over sales). lA 0.09% increase in sales growth per employee. 
  • A 3.1% increase in the probability of achieving sales from new technology.  

 ​UKCES conducts extensive studies of skills and their impact on the economy, business and employees. Its conclusion is that there is a direct correlation between skills levels and prosperity.

“The starkest illustration of this is that training provided to the workforce increases the chances of firm survival,” says UKCES in its recent report, The Value of Skills .

The report provides findings that underline the importance of maintaining investment in training. The evidence is that high performance working drives business success.

Nationally, the skills agenda is changing rapidly and some of the challenges arising from the UKCES research indicate:

  1. There are not enough highly skilled people who are world class. You have to upgrade people skills through qualifications, training and development. 
  2. We must move up the value chain and develop higher level skills with improved leadership and people development. ​ 

​At a national level, the UK is being rapidly overhauled by other countries that are generating skills at a faster pace. The price of under-investing in skills means a slide in competitiveness that could have long-term economic consequences.

“We aspire to be top eight, but are between 11th and 21st, depending on how you measure it,” says Campbell, “so, the UK is nowhere near world class.”

To combine the twin objectives of continuing to develop the skills and motivation of staff at relatively low cost, many organisations have joined the ‘Café Culture’ campaign run on behalf of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. The aim of the campaign is to promote good practice among employers and Business in the Community has published ‘Building the Café Culture Movement’ to help other organisations see the benefits of informal adult learning at work.

The campaign, which has been running since last year, has involved a wide range of sectors, including manufacturing, finance, construction, utilities and food and drink companies. It took its inspiration from the idea of a wider café culture, where people meet informally to share ideas in a fun and relaxed environment. By translating this to an office environment, the intention has been to encourage people to work together as teams to support creativity and improve skills.

More information about The Value of Skills: An Evidence Review is available at www.ukces.org.uk under ‘publications’. If you would like more information about how a ‘Café Culture’ approach to training might increase your businesses chance of survival, contact Jayne Finn at Qorus by emailing jayne@qorus.co.uk

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