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Investing in Employee Training Keeps Companies Competitive

Companies with limited funds can even find inexpensive options

Reprint from the Sacramento Business Journal 2012

Helen Horyza compares skilled employees to high-performance vehicles. “You have to be willing to make the investment,” she said. “If you don’t, it is like having a Maserati without maintenance. ”Horyza, president of Scully Career Associates in Folsom, says small businesses that don’t stay current on industry trends, don’t have budgets for employee training and don’t evolve will struggle to stay competitive.
“We are heading into a labor market where your ability to see the next wrinkle is the thing that keeps you in business,” she said. Attending professional conferences, participating in executive round tables and making sure key employees are prepared for the next big thing are also important. The average employee tenure is only three years, so businesses that want to keep the best and brightest better be prepared to invest some time and money. “One of the highest rated things that employees are looking for is career and training development,” said Horyza. “They want to feel important and grow. If you think training is expensive, just have your best people leave.”

At Cunningham Engineering Corp., senior engineer Martin Lewis and planning and sustainability analyst Dan Woo completed the requirements necessary to become Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design accredited professionals for Neighborhood Developments — a new national design standard that integrates principles of green building and smart growth in community design. The company reimbursed their $450 application fees and also paid for a LEED ND instructor to explain the program to other members of the office.

“I wanted to immerse myself in it,” said Lewis. “It is a relatively useful credential, and is valuable for marketing.” Lewis, Woo and others also lead seminars and advise clients on what they learned. The interaction and questions stemming from those sessions are valuable, said Dan Fenocchio, Cunningham vice president, and the training in general “puts us in a favorable position for those types of projects,” he said. Though Cunningham has the resources to pay for employee training, many small businesses may find it difficult to find the money, especially in these tough times. “It is difficult, especially because dollars are so tight for them, but businesses need to know that if employees are not continuing to be educated on the newest and latest then their business will fall behind,” said Panda Morgan, director of the Northeastern California Small Business Development Center, which serves the Sacramento region. Morgan recommends that businesses discuss training opportunities with employees, and then incorporate them into their yearly budgets. If money is tight, small businesses can search out low-cost or free programs offered by her organization and others. “Go to events, read industry magazines and then bring those (lessons) to staff meetings,” she said. “Small businesses have a tendency to say they can’t send people to training, but they need to research what they can get at no or little cost.” Tom Ford says continued training pays dividends for his 30-employee firm, MarketOne Builders Inc. MarketOne pays tuition costs for employees who seek additional training in programs that help the company and improve employee skills. “It is not an economic decision,” said Ford, who is company president.

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