Developing employees in difficult times

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the herald

Matthias Ruziwa: HR challenges

The rapidly changing business environment in Zimbabwe has led most organizations to employ cost effective strategies for sustainability of operations. Under these circumstances, HR has been under pressure to fit into the cost-cutting equation. The reduction in labor costs has been characterized by a reduction in wages, a freeze on talent acquisition, requests for exemption from national employment boards for increases in the minimum wage, downsizing, avoidance of overtime, etc. While all of this is happening, business leaders in some situations have been seen to compromise on training budgets forgetting that there is a definite need to balance economic value and organizational capacity. It’s more likely that due to the economic pressures currently affecting most organizations, HR professionals are struggling to convince leaders to invest in training and development.

In this article, the author will attempt to address possible ways that can be considered to support employee development programs, even when economic times are tough.

· The starting point of every normal business is a strategic plan. HR should pay particular attention to the content of the strategic plan document. The employee development plan should then clearly state the proposed deliverables related to the strategic plan. This can include a SWOT analysis which will help justify proper training. Once this is done, it is then easy to construct a budget which should be supported by an analysis of the benefits to the organization so that business leaders can better understand how your training schedule will positively impact the return on their investment.

· Management always has SMART objectives at the center of the strategic plan document. In my experience, business goals revolve around improving performance, productivity, quality, customer satisfaction, business growth, etc. Once the HR department becomes familiar with the company’s goals, it can then develop targeted training programs in place of traditional curvilinear training. programs. In the current environment, I suggest that priority be given to compliance, marketing and sales training, as well as leadership training. HR should also design onboarding procedures and training for new hires that ensure employees are informed and focused on issues such as quality standards and customer satisfaction. Remember that the employee is the king, if he is well equipped; the customer is necessarily satisfied.

· Business linkages and partnerships are key approaches to consider. HR should partner with institutions such as the National Social Security Authority (NSSA), Department of Civil Service, Labor and Welfare, National Employment Boards, etc. for compliance training. These organizations do not charge exorbitant fees for providing training materials. Also, HR should build a strong network with speakers from their local universities and colleges. They are professionals trained in instructional design and can work with your company’s employee development experts to create helpful and professional instructional materials. HR should also ensure that their supervisors are well trained in coaching and mentoring skills, as they are responsible for training employees.

· The voice of the employee is of the utmost importance when it comes to organizational capacity. Some organizations have all but collapsed simply because of leadership that disregards ideas developed by the workforce. Research has indicated that the best source of information about your organization’s performance and needs are your employees. They know the past, current and future events of the organization and what should be changed. They appreciate being valued and will certainly provide feedback on what could be eliminated or what could be improved.

· Business leaders are justified when they insist on reducing the training budget. The reason for this is that they may not have seen the results of your previous training programs. Successful companies measure results to ensure they are improving shareholder wealth. When HR designs training programs, they must incorporate the corresponding attitudes and behaviors researched and measured in the field to determine whether or not employees have actually learned to perform in the best way. One of the reasons employee development programs don’t yield the desired results is the common employee question, “What’s in it for me?”

HR must ensure that their training programs are linked to employee satisfaction. It is necessary to celebrate achievements and successes. Everyone in the organization should know what it means when someone has completed a training course in terms of growth opportunities. This generates maximum participation from everyone and you will be surprised that some employees can actually help you train as experts in their own right or can help you evaluate their colleagues.

There is no doubt that organizations in Zimbabwe are going through difficult economic times. Training programs obviously cost money and due to the competing budgets of different departments in the company, HR has to align the organization with its dreams. It is more likely that some HR practitioners fail to secure funding for training programs because they fear that their proposals will always be rejected by business leaders. No, what you need to do as HR is present an analysis that impacts the bottom line. Whenever you discuss your training budget, make it clear that you have a thorough understanding of the analysis that indicates return on investment (ROI).

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this document are solely those of the author

Matthias Ruziwa is an experienced and rising Strategic Human Resource Practitioner based in the Midlands Province, Kwekwe City.

You can contact Matthias at the following email address:

[email protected] /whatsapp 0773 470 368

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