What I’m Watching: My teen daughter and I recently kicked off our 3rd annual re-watch of Gilmore Girls, and my whole family and I are enjoying the latest season of Our Flag Means Death (having kids that have crossed into the teen zone makes for a much better TV life!)
What I’m Listening To: It’s getting chilly here in Ohio, and the Spotify algorithm knows it. Lately I’ve been streaming the Scarf Season playlist in the background while I work, and it hits just right.
As a Gen-Xer with hippy-adjacent parents, I grew up listening to a tremendous amount of folk music. So, it’s not uncommon for me to get snippets of song lyrics from the sixties and seventies stuck in my head for weeks on end. Lately, the song that won’t leave my head is Teach Your Children by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.
Why this song?
This summer, my colleagues and I at Raftelis convened dozens of focus groups and individual interviews with employees from a range of local governments and utilities across the country. Regardless of employees’ rank or department, or their organizations’ size or geography, we heard a common theme from all of these conversations: Public sector staff want their organizations to do more to support their professional growth, build their job-related skills, and enhance their leadership potential.
Why are our employees so hungry for training and development right now? And why should our organizations make it a priority? Many of the organizations we at Raftelis partner with are experiencing record-high vacancy rates, limited candidate pools for open positions, and frequent turnover in key positions. Remaining staff are being pushed to take on additional responsibilities to cover the skill and capacity gaps created by this environment. And with fewer staff available to accomplish the work, staff are experiencing heavy workloads and unprecedented burnout.
These conditions call for a renewed investment in developing the talent that already exists in our organizations to equip staff with the skills they need to do the work they are being called on to do and to grow personally and professionally.
Creating a culture that values training and development as a critical component of organizational success requires a mindset shift for many traditional public sector organizations. If your organization needs to move away from some of these old ways of thinking, here are some ideas that might help.
We can’t afford to invest in training and development
Think about budget season. As a former city finance director, I was part of the problem. When budgets are tight, what do you cut? Training and travel looks like an innocuous line item, right?
Wrong. Investing in the development and advancement of your staff is a relatively low-cost way to demonstrate your organization’s commitment to their wellbeing compared to many of the other salary and benefit adjustments organizations have been pursuing recently to address the high cost of employee turnover.
We’re too busy for staff to take time away
Many teams will tell you they’re just too busy for employees to take time off for training. With the current short-staffing problems, how can they squeeze the organization even further?
Providing opportunities for staff to step away from their day-to-day work to participate in training and development spurs creativity and innovation. When they return to work, they will have new skills and knowledge and be refreshed and ready to tackle their work with renewed energy.
If we train them, they’ll just leave
Another argument we hear is that if we spend the time and money to train staff, they will become more attractive to other employers, and they will just leave and take their new knowledge and skills with them.
Investing in employee training and development is proven to be beneficial for both employee retention and recruitment. In recent national surveys, the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) has found that nearly have of employees agreed that training opportunities were a factor in choosing their current organization, and over three-quarters said they were more likely to stay with an organization that offers ongoing training opportunities.
We don’t have the capacity in HR to focus on training
Many organizations’ HR departments are overwhelmed with their current focus on recruitment and managing the impacts of new employment policies like paid parental leave and remote work. They may not have the internal capacity to devote to training and development right now.
The idea that HR staff are the only folks that can “do” training and development for your organization is outdated and limiting. Partnering with trusted organizations like professional associations, educational institutions, and even firms like Raftelis can create a much wider array of learning and development opportunities for your organization’s staff and act as a force multiplier for your HR team.
In a recent LinkedIn conversation I participated in about this topic, a colleague’s contact made an excellent point. He said “Training and Development is never a ‘Sometimes Thing,’ it’s an ‘All the time thing!’ and I couldn’t agree more. Whenever possible, our organizations should take a “Just Say Yes” approach to training and development – the benefits far outweigh the costs.