The Employment Equity Act and Skills Development Act will not be enough to save businesses from failure if training and upskilling are only approached from a compliance perspective. Owners, leaders and managers must commit to training their staff with a view to gaining competitive advantage.
Research from Mckinsey and Manpower Group shows that training must be part of business strategy. Going beyond what is required by law must be the minimum employers should do to upskill their employees. A different approach is needed – but what does this entail?
According to Nicol Myburgh, Head: HCM Business Unit at CRS Technologies, investing in employees is critical. ‘Upskilling staff does more than just improve their overall proficiency with specific tasks; it turns an employee into an asset and has a large impact on employee engagement. When companies invest in their employees the employees feel valued, and often perceive upskilling as a reward, which makes them much more likely to go the extra mile for the company.’
From a cost perspective, it is usually more cost-effective to train existing employees than to hire new skilled ones, Myburgh continues. ‘Skilled employees have a much higher cost when hiring, while unskilled employees are more affordable. Of course, as they acquire skills their cost goes up but not to the same extent as hiring an already skilled employee. If we look further than just the cost, I am a firm believer in the adage “Hire for attitude, aptitude can be trained”.’
The business world changes rapidly, he adds, so it is worthwhile to remind business owners of the benefits of training and retraining with the future clearly in mind – a future that includes emigration, semigration, the Great Resignation and artificial intelligence.
Myburgh’s advice is not to delay training for too long, as it will become both urgent and important because of the rate of change. ‘Keep the benefits front and focused: improved productivity, enhanced task proficiency, raised employee engagement and a reduction in overall costs. The training decision must be an investment decision and not merely paying lip service to skills.’
Investing in skills, if done correctly by choosing the right methods and with long-term benefits in mind, is essential. ‘Even in a slow economy, this is the only way to reap the benefits of employee loyalty and guard businesses against suffering even greater losses down the road,’ Myburgh concludes.