With today’s severe financial constraints many local authority training budgets have either been cut or dispensed with altogether. But far from being cost-effective, the long term financial implications for such organisations can be serious. A low-skilled, demotivated workforce can incur unnecessary costs and opens up organisations to all kinds of risks. And if channel shift is important to you then you need to train your employees properly as they’re really the key to a successful channel shift operation. In order to realise the benefits of channel shift training is crucial.

It has always been something of a mystery to me why some organisations are happy to invest heavily in new IT systems and yet fail to achieve the full potential of their investment through adequate training of staff. I speak from personal experience. I worked for a large organisation that invested millions of pounds in a new IT project. Upon implementation of the system very little training was offered to staff, who were then set unachievable learning outcomes that were mostly irrelevant to their roles within the organisation. It was clear to everyone that this was ‘tick the box’ lip service training. This lack of engagement with the workforce resulted in the system being woefully underused, which was to the detriment of both the organisation and staff.

If local authorities are investing in technology designed to help with channel shift then it’s critical that staff know what these systems are and how they work in order to realise the benefits of channel shift. When any new system is installed there can be a steep learning curve while people get used to it and get into the habit of using it. If training and support is not provided at this stage then these good habits may never form. Staff can be resistant to using a system that they aren’t familiar with to replace existing processes and procedures that they know very well. Training is essential, not only to help them understand the nuts and bolts of how the new system works but also so that they know how using the new system is going to benefit them, and indeed so that they can deal effectively with inquiries from the public.

However, not all staff have to be trained, only those who are going to actually use the new product/system. ‘One size fits all’ training where outcomes are vague and have little meaning to the workforce is a waste of time and money. How many times have you been on a training course and someone has said ‘I don’t know why I am here’? Not only must there be training of staff but the training must be relevant. If we invest and engage with the appropriate staff from the outset then the chances of successful implementation dramatically increase. Here are 5 reasons why local authorities should invest in training their staff:

  1. Improvement in staff performance. This goes without saying! A self-assured member of staff is not only proficient in their own role but will feel confident to offer opinion and articulate where improvements on systems/processes can be made that are relevant to their area of work. Remember training is a developmental tool and a step towards allowing staff to achieve their potential.
  2. Improvement in quality of service. A knowledgeable workforce will result in increased customer confidence and approval. The ability of customer services or contact centres to deal immediately with an issue rather than refer elsewhere will enhance customer satisfaction
  3. Reduction in supervisory issues. Quite often a supervisor will become involved in issues that are quite basic and fundamental to a junior colleague’s role. This stems from a lack of training at the outset. The supervisor is then employed in ‘bits and pieces’ of ad hoc on-the-job training. This prevents the supervisor from fulfilling their managerial role efficiently and, because of the very nature of on the spot training, very rarely does the colleague become proficient in their role. Relevant training will produce a workforce that can perform their tasks with little or no guidance.
  4. Reduced costs. A number of surveys have demonstrated that a well-trained workforce will reduce organisational costs. Efficient, effective and confident staff make less demands on the organisation’s time and produce less wastage, reducing needless costs in terms of both time and finance.
  5. Workforce and customer satisfaction. Confident, well trained staff positively affect the workplace. Surveys have consistently recognised that job satisfaction is key to high productivity, morale, motivation and low employee turnover. Research has also shown that when a customer is satisfied with an organisation or service they are likely to share their experience with five or six other people. However, dissatisfied customers are likely to tell another ten people of their unfortunate experience. Social media allows customers to relate their experiences to a large audience. A motivated, trained workforce will increase the prospect of customer satisfaction.

On a final note, I attended a training course where a senior manager openly questioned the validity of training and whether it represented value for money. The trainer quoted the following:

Person A asks  “What if we spend money on training our employees and they leave?”
Person B replies “What if we don’t and they stay?!”

At Abavus I’ve worked with many local authorities on channel shift and transformation projects and I’ve seen time and again that the ones that really succeed in implementing an effective channel shift or transformation strategy are the ones that invest in training rather than shy away from it.