Training: Readers have their say

Training tends to be a thorny issue in most organisations. Employees expect their employers to provide some level of training as...

Training tends to be a thorny issue in most organisations. Employees expect their employers to provide some level of training as part of their career development while organisations often balk at the cost - particularly if they've picked up the cost of training in the past only to find that their newly-skilled staff have walked into the welcoming arms of rival companies.

In the February instalment of his Behind Closed Doors column, Colin Beveridge suggested that it might be mutually beneficial for employees to be locked into training contracts. This would promise the employee a certain level of training, to be funded by the company, but if the employee took another job before the contract period had elapsed, they would be liable to reimburse the company for some of its investment in them.

Read Colin Beveridge's column about training >>

This suggestion was welcomed by many readers, while others felt it would be difficult to implement. This is what some of them had to say about the issue:

Training contracts benefit everyone
The type of "contract" Colin mentions is already commonplace in many companies and definitely benefits both parties in the permanent marketplace.

Both the employee and employer will experience a skills and knowledge growth which directly benefits all concerned. This can only benefit the reputation of the employer and enhance its reputation as a quality company both to work for, and to deal with from the client side, whilst building confidence and loyalty from within its own workforce.
Financially, companies which do this stand to lose nothing and are seen in the industry to be doing all the right things.
If you don't train, you will surely lose your good staff to those who will.
There are always those companies who are desperate enough to buy out these contracts by means of a golden handshake but they are few and far between.

LLion Rowlands
System Consultancy Groupware


It takes much more to motivate staff
I recently read a quote that sums this training issue up very well, it went something like "when asked what happens if the company trains someone and they leave, I ask what happens if we don't train them and they stay".

I understand the idea of a "training contract", but I am not sure of the worth of such a contract. Sure, it may keep the individual sitting at their desk, but it does not necessarily motivate them to do any work. Training is just one of many factors that affects retention. The others include the work environment, being valued, remuneration and being part of a team that is making a difference.

Make the work environment right and the employee will want to stay. Get it wrong, and no contract will improve the low productivity and high staff turnover that will result.

Mark Schofield
UK & Ireland systems manager
Invensys Process Systems

Training cost is cheaper than opportunity lost
I totally concur with Colin's views, but then as a training provider, I would!

When faced with the statement "what happens if I train my staff and they leave?" we always respond with "What happens if you don't train them and they stay?" It may not be original, but it gets the point over.

Time and time again we see companies and organisations struggling with upgrades and new functionality from technology which expect their staff to muddle through by trial and error. The investment made by forward-thinking organisations in their staff is paying real benefits. Typically at the moment, they tend to be public bodies who have set aside budgets and who do not see training as an optional cost. The result is that the public sector is more advanced in deriving real benefits from technology than private companies who you could argue, need competitive edge far more than the public sector.

Mike Hughes

Contract will seal board endorsement
I agree with Colin. Unless you invest in training IT staff they will become demotivated and move elsewhere to a company which will enhance their career path. To protect your investment in training a contract of the kind Colin mentioned would be acceptable to both parties as they are both gaining from it as well as making it easier for the IT manager to justify his spend with the board of directors.

Brian Roberts
European IT manager

Training is key to cost-saving disciplines
I have worked for several companies during my short career in IT, including one which did have terms in my employment contract stipulating that if I went on a training course and left within 12 months I would have to pay back a proportion of the cost.

I was happy to sign the contract only to find out that the financial director who I worked for could not grasp the idea that training courses are there to help you gain a better understanding of what is possible with a software package. All I was ever told was that if I understood enough to be able to explain the possibilities of what we could do with the package, then why did I have to go on a course? 

Fourteen months later I'd learnt nothing with help from the company, bought several books and moved on. At least I didn't have to pay anything back for my training.
I think this is typical of many employers who want people to "think out of the box" to give the company that special edge while perceiving all aspects of IT as a box. Show a financial director a room full of servers and he'll presume each one runs individually to do one job while the real benefits actually come from integration. To do this effectively you have to understand numerous systems each of which could take months or years to really understand without help and by the time you have got that far the project and the software is out of date.
How many other industries are there out there where your qualifications expire and your boss wants you to justify why he should pay for you to update them?

Simon Thompson
IT manager
Sinclaire Fabrics 

On-the-job-training is no cheap option
Colin is right on. What other industry is, or has ever evolved at the same speed as IT? Yet "the bosses" think we should just buy the new stuff and get it to work, never mind getting us trained to handle all the details. Organisations need to recognise that on-the-job-training can often prove to be much more expensive than traditional, targeted options.

I, for one, have been both the company and employee of the quid-pro-quo option commitment-for-training and am a strong advocate.

David P. Ferguson
Director of information technology
Organisational Strategies

IT could learn from haulage industry
The practice of tied training has been going on for years in the HGV industry. If you start work for a haulage company and a vacancy opens for a driver, the company will train you under a retainer contract of something in the region of two years.

Having come from heavy industry to study networking at university, I am surprised to find this practice isn't already in place in the IT industry.
Mike Ellis

What do you think? Is tied training a viable solution to the question of who pays for individuals' career development? >>

Read Colin Beveridge's column about training >>

Thank you to all who responded - our apologies if your views were not quoted. All reader feedback on is published only with the specific authorisation of the correspondent.

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