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July 25, 2001
Continuing Ed Helps the Bottom Line
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ugh it was shown a long time ago that continuing education creates a more productive workforce, the American Society for Training and Development now claims that training predicts a company's financial performance.

"A company's commitment to employee education will always pay off," Jennifer Homer, director of public relations for Alexandria, Va.-based ASTD, told the Business Journal Serving Greater Milwaukee.

In surveying training and outcomes at 575 publicly held companies, ASTD found that firms that invested $680 more in training per employee than the average company in 1996, 1997 and 1998 improved their total stockholder return by six percentage points the following year.

Firms in the top quarter of the study group that invested on average $1,595 per employee in training also experienced 24 percent higher gross profit margins, 218 percent higher income per employee and 26 percent higher price-to-book ratios.

The Milwaukee journal reports that as the benefits of employee training catch on, several trends are emerging.

For instance, the most popular employee training programs concern information technology skills, but soft skill programs like leadership and team building are on the rise.

And the increasingly preferred way of learning is e-learning, as more companies develop intranet programs that employees can access electronically at any time, from any computer with company access.

HNTB Corp. has developed a Web-based career development center for its employees, relying heavily on the company's intranet system. It lets workers takes classes in leadership development, project management, office electives, technical excellence and software support.

Lynn Gilbertson, a program participant, said follow-up components have helped employees to apply course work to their positions. "Most of the courses require mentoring or an action plan, which are really valuable," she said.

For companies just getting started, the following steps are important:

Assess needs. Since training is an important recruitment and retention tool, survey employees about the skills they would most like to enhance. Consider the best delivery system for your employees' learning styles. Determine whether the program will be administered internally or outsourced. Set clear outcomes for later evaluation.

Develop a plan. The way a training program is announced to employees sets the stage for success, so be positive. Discuss goals, measurable outcomes, ground rules, methods and trainer responsibilities with the trainer well in advance of the first session. Create a classroom environment that fosters learning.

Evaluate. The only way to determine whether employees have learned is to ask them.

To view the Business Journal Serving Greater Milwaukee story, click here.
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