Addressing Staff Engagement and Retention

Training Can Increase Staff Engagement and Retention

At the recent SIPA 2011 Conference, I spoke with Caroline Frost (pictured left), director of learning and development for Informa Business Information in London—and a new SIPA board member. “Young people want training,” she told me. “It gets them engaged in a different way. And it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money or staff time. We just do it at lunch sometimes. It also provides some added motivation; employees want to feel they’re contributing to something. So employees who present for us are coached beforehand and then thanked and recognized publicly afterwards to show our appreciation.”

Frost said that at IBI, they are “working to create a ‘Learning Culture.’ Volunteer programs for staff seem to be hitting the spot. Staff are aware that their development is important and, in general, are given every opportunity to attend courses to develop their functional skills as well as their management skills. We have received extremely positive feedback from staff on our courses and the fact that opportunities are open to them. We haven’t yet measured the shift in staff engagement and retention but should be in a position to do that” later on.

Here are some of Frost’s low-cost or no-cost, training Ideas for smaller companies:
– Use internal talent. Staff can be persuaded to regard it as a career advancing/enhancing step. Choose technical experts to train others. You may have some ex-teachers/educators as part of your staff which is always handy.
– Invest in a Train the Trainer course for all staff who could be considered for training. This improves confidence and presentation skills, and a good course will also enhance attendees’ abilities to put themselves in others’ shoes.
– Information sharing: Lunch and Learn sessions on your market, various products or processes—e.g. we do one on the drug development cycle.
– Skills practice sessions: closing for salespeople (get an ace salesperson to lead the session); new systems or processes for production, social media marketing for marketers, etc.
– It’s important to work with staff to develop interactive sessions (perhaps not so important for the product or market briefings).
– Sometimes you may find that staff feel more confident to deliver a training session if they do it in pairs. This is fine; they just need coaching in advance.

IBI has a Learning and Development staff of four that includes:
– One IT trainer who delivers courses in Excel, Word and updating their Intranet. [He or she] also develops courses in response to demand (e.g. using PowerPoint for effective presentations, Pivot tables for marketers, etc.).
– One training manager who focuses mainly on creating content and delivering management training. “Together we have developed a three-tier structure for managers based on internal Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)—i.e. what our company expects from our managers in the areas of managing strategy, resources and developing people and personal mastery,” Frost said.
– One administrative assistant;
– And Frost. She delivers training and creates content for senior management and leadership programs—also for “soft skills” like stress management and Train the Trainer courses.

To finish, Frost told me this story: “We had a wonderful workshop one day. I had gotten this motivational speaker who was also a magician to speak to the employees. And he was good. For the climax of his show, he brought out the secret scroll, lit it on fire and yelled, ‘The fire is within you!’ There was a loud noise though not much smoke, but something set off the fire alarms and the whole building had to be cleared for about an hour.” Frost paused. “We needed the break.”

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Upcoming 2011 SIPA Events

August 9, 7:30 p.m.
Washington, D.C. Chapter Marketing Dinner

October 4
2011 Fall Publishers Conference

October 5
E-Learning Workshop

December 7-9
SIPA’s 28th Annual Marketing Conference

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