Training wheels

Traditionally, companies invest in new technology, new products and services. But how many invest in training programs that pay immediate and long-term dividends?

The answer: not as many as it should be.

There are three training programs beyond the basics that every small and large company needs to add to their training portfolio. They are: ethics, sexual harassment and negotiation/conflict resolution. All three of these programs can reduce the potential of negligence claims and lawsuits.

Let’s look at how each of these can improve your firm’s working environment, morale and culture.

Ethics training

Recent national surveys have shown that providing training in ethics better prepares middle management and front line supervisors to handle ethical challenges. The Ethics Resource Center performed a survey in 2005 which found that 98 percent of senior managers who have been trained feel prepared to handle ethical challenges compared to 91 percent who have not been trained.

The gap gets even larger when we address middle management and frontline supervisors. Eighty-five percent of middle managers who were trained felt prepared versus 73 percent who were not trained. When we go down to the frontline supervisor level, we find 86 percent of them felt prepared to handle ethical challenges compared to 67 percent who have not been trained. The survey identified that 79 percent of non-managers who have been trained feel prepared to handle ethical challenges compared to 58 percent who have not been trained.

By instituting an ethical training program for all levels of management you will increase the probability that they will demonstrate strong and consistent ethical behavior to your employees, customers and suppliers resulting in an enhanced public image of your firm.

Sexual harassment training

In many cases this type of training is called sensitivity training and incorporates both diversity and discrimination subject matter. The goal is to improve the quality of the work environment and strengthen the corporate culture. Women and minorities need to be seen as equals in the workplace and inappropriate remarks about gender and ethnicity must be eliminated.

Recently, at a national retail chain, a supervisor remarked to an employee that since she was pregnant, she could no longer do the job. There is a possibility that that supervisor violated the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) and his organization will be investigated by the EEOC. There could be substantial fines for violating the PDA. This type of behavior could be prevented with the proper training of managers and supervisors as to the laws regarding discrimination.

This fall a district attorney in Chilton, Wis. was disciplined for texting and making sexually suggestive comments to female crime victims. Companies need to be proactive with sensitivity training to reduce the potential for claims of sexual harassment, hostile work environment and requests for sexual favors. Many local firms require that their employees annually take and pass both ethics and sexual harassment training courses offered on the company Intranet. This type of training provides your company with hard data that demonstrates they are working diligently to be in compliance with these areas of the law.

Negotiation/conflict resolution training

The goal for training these skill sets is to learn how best to recognize and deal with disagreements before they evolve into conflicts and require outside intervention to defuse the conflict. The participants are taught self-mediation, active listening and other communication techniques that will assist in their everyday interactions with both internal and external clients. They also learn to use both qualitative and quantitative criteria in their decision making.

But the greatest benefit, besides learning how to deal with different personalities, is the growth in self-confidence that is experienced by these participants. This increase in self assurance is a direct result of the planning techniques that are learned in the training. Knowing how to properly prepare for a negotiation reduces stress and boosts a person’s confidence that they will reach a successful result. This training provides them with tools that they will use throughout their business and personal life and one that will contribute to higher levels of productivity and profitability for their employers.

After a training session with a national pest control company, their executive secretary contacted the hotel where they were planning a conference and renegotiated their reservations and the associated costs. She saved the company more than the cost of the training session. In this case the training generated an immediate return on their investment. Your rule of thumb should be, invest your training dollars where you can identify a payback for your firm.

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