Column: Training is a strategic tool

At last! Economic light is beaming at the end of the long recession tunnel. Washington’s unemployment rate is at its lowest point since February 2009, and better news appears daily in headlines. Businesses are once again developing strategies for growth.

The Port of Vancouver’s West Vancouver Freight Access Project is expected to create more than 1,000 new, permanent jobs within five years. Building the project will generate an anticipated 4,000 construction jobs.

Fisher Investment welcomed 400 employees to their new $30 million building last December. In east Clark County, leaders are exploring options for developing 40 waterfront acres formerly occupied by the Hambleton sawmill. And Insitu Inc. and SEH America both announced expansion plans.

In January, Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire outlined plans that include reforms to free up cash for small businesses to help them grow.

“It’s small businesses that employ the vast majority of our workers,” the Governor said in a press release last month. “In fact, 95 percent of Washington employers have fewer than 50 workers. If we can make it easier and cheaper for them to do business, they can afford to add more employees.”

Big questions

As these long-awaited new jobs phase in, business owners and managers face some big questions:

• What will our employees need to know, understand and be able to do to execute our company’s plans? What training will be needed to prepare them? 

• When our most seasoned employees retire, what knowledge and skills will we lose that we absolutely have to have? Do we have a process in place to capture that?

• Within our organization, which employees do we wish we could clone? What if we could find a systematic way to replicate their methods?

• Is someone in our company slated to take on a new role? Maybe move into a supervisory or management position? They may be technically awesome, but are they prepared to lead teams or manage business activities? What training do they need to successfully navigate the new role?

• What elements of our company’s culture do new hires need to embrace in
order to extend our brand promise to customers? Is our on-boarding plan organized
to cover that? Do we have an onboarding plan? Getting
new employees up to speed swiftly is cost-effective, boosts morale and aids in retention. Are we ready?

Training manager’s job

In a large corporation, managers would take up these questions with the training department. A training manager’s job is to understand the client’s business objectives, discover exactly what business result they are seeking and what numbers they track. Then the training manager finds efficient, effective ways to deliver targeted new knowledge or skills to the people involved, designing a way to measure results.

For smaller companies that can’t afford a full-time in-house training manager, third-party options like The Training Department exist.These companies work with small businesses that lack
in-house training managers in order to strengthen business through learning. All the services of a large corporate training department are typically offered, but at far
less of an expense.

One last thought

Business owners and managers are often stopped short by the statement, “The only way you’re going to create what you really want is by visualizing the outcome that you’re trying to achieve.” Most people believe learning is good, but it’s not effective if it isn’t aligned with the company’s strategic plan.


Susan Edwards is the owner of The Training Department. She can be reached at 360.852.4142.