Opinion piece by Daniel Orelowitz, Managing Director at Training Force

In light of South Africa’s deepening skills shortage, there has been an increase in companies opting to upskill their existing workforce through internal training.

The faster companies skill their people, the quicker it will be to start putting those skills to work in the business. Image credit: Gerd Altmann | Pixabay

The faster companies skill their people, the quicker it will be to start putting those skills to work in the business. Image credit: Gerd Altmann | Pixabay

While skills development is a cost-effective and viable means of teaching new skills to employees to fill an operational gap, it can be tricky for companies to ensure that their upskilling programmes achieve the desired results. Balancing the cost of training and quality of output is difficult but given the reluctance of companies to hire new staff with the current economic conditions, as well as the scarcity of certain skills, upskilling existing employees can be both beneficial and cost effective if executed correctly.

 The pitfalls of training programmes

There is a tendency to think that if learnership and training programmes are run in-house, this gives the business greater control over costs and quality. This is not the case. Although it varies from company to company, many lack the proper training accreditations. They might be experts in their field – whether it’s manufacturing, or sales – but they’re not experts in training. They’re not experts in assessment and this is where organisations get stuck, thinking they can do it on the cheap. Hiring two or three people to run training isn’t going to deliver the right results. It takes a whole specialist team to get the job done correctly, with the correct accreditation and scope of service.

Best choices based on realistic business needs

How should businesses be approaching their learnership and training programmes? Realistically.  After some inward reflection on their needs, companies should look to partnering with reputable training providers to deliver their learnership and upskilling programmes for maximum impact. If training isn’t a company’s core business, why attempt to do it in-house? Rather than bearing the fixed cost of having resources permanently employed along with the obligation of managing their performance, outsourcing to a training provider means the company benefits from the widest possible scope of expertise and accreditation, while only paying for their service on a consumption basis.

Factors to consider

For organisations considering outsourcing their training requirements, it’s important to consider their specific needs within the bigger picture. A nationwide company will need a training partner that meets their needs geographically, in addition to offering training and skills assessment expertise and accreditation in their sector or industry. Companies should seek training solutions that focus specifically on their business. Although many have established training departments, this does not maximise output. Bringing in a training partner to augment internal training programmes is an effective business move that gives companies access to the right resources, without fixed, on-going costs. Furthermore, from a Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) perspective, utilising a training partner with a good scorecard is a practical business move because it’s more effective to procure B-BBEE points, instead of having the burden of achieving that score internally.

Risk vs return

It may feel like a risk for businesses to outsource their training requirements, but it’s important for them in this instance to look at the bigger picture and the greater requirement. Companies need to upskill their own staff and develop their workforce. In so doing, they need to take the most structurally compelling approach to achieving the desired outcome. A suitable training partner would understand how to slot into operations to meet skills development requirements. This would negate the need to hire permanent staff for training purposes, when doing so would simply add another cost and performance management component that can be averted simply by outsourcing.

Outsource to maximise benefits

Building internal training capacity and programmes, particularly online training programmes, can be even more time consuming and costly. Training companies have the developer resources and expertise to tailor pre-existing online training platforms to suit their clients’ specific requirements. There is simply no need to reinvent the wheel, as training providers have done all this work already, making it faster and easier for businesses to simply plug this training functionality into their operations seamlessly and hit the ground running. The faster companies can get to training and upskilling their people, the quicker it will be to start putting those skills to work in the business, achieving a return on that training effort while minimising disruption to production.