Training the key in the war for talent

May 10 2005 by Nic Paton Print This Article

Britain's employers are embracing training as a way of retaining and getting the most out of employees in a tough labour market.

Research from the journal IRS Employment Review has suggested training budgets are set to increase as employers struggle to ensure workers have the skills they need to do their jobs, and that managers can get the best out of them.

Its poll of 68 organisations found nearly nine out of ten said a key objective of training was to ensure that employee skills were up to scratch – a reflection of the difficulty employers have finding the right people in a tight labour market.

Six out of ten cited the need to improve line managers' people skills.

More than a third of employers planned to increase their learning and development budget in the next year, while just 12 per cent planned to spend less. Half expected to keep the budget at the same level.

The amounts paid for training varied according to the sector concerned; annual training budgets in the private sector are generally higher, with the average spend per employee at £413 in private sector firms, compared with £150 in the public sector.

The amount allocated to training per employee appears to reduce as organisation size increases, the survey also found.

The approximate spend per employee varied from £110 to £870 in smaller organisations, while the median figure was £420.

For medium-sized employers, the amount spent ranged from £41 to £2,363, with a median figure of £208.

Among larger organisations, the lowest spend per employee was £37 and the highest was £1,266, with a median of £167.

Some 40 per cent of those polled had not offered basic skills training, despite continuing concerns about low levels of numeracy and literacy among the UK workforce.

Similarly, more than half the employers surveyed offered no language training, despite an increasingly international marketplace and a growing recognition of the value of foreign language skills, said IRS.

Face-to-face learning methods were more popular than passive techniques, and were considered to be more effective.

Formal classroom training, one-to-one coaching and external conferences was seen as most successful.

At least nine out of 10 respondents used an external provider to deliver some training.

There was also an increased emphasis on staff coaching, with it now being seen as an important part of management development.

More broadly, 88 per cent of the organisations polled expected line managers to carry out at least some training activities.

Most – 82 per cent – provided a specific management development programme. Of those that did not, 10 per cent said managers used their own resources to further their development.

More than one-third of respondents had concerns about the adequacy of their organisation's training provision.

IRS Employment Review managing editor Mark Crail said: "Employers are finding it very difficult to fill jobs at present – a reflection of the fairly healthy state of the economy.

"So one obvious solution is to providing existing staff with the skills they need to do their jobs better and to take on new responsibilities.

"We also know that employers that provide training are more attractive to people looking for work, so there is a double positive effect.

"A key challenge for HR is to ensure that line managers take training seriously and that they themselves are equipped to develop their staff. Too many organisations expect their managers to train others without themselves having the skills to do so," he added.