Why training needs to form part of your organisation’s strategy

From PackSolve.

By: Marco Peterson COO of the PackSolve Group

In an environment where skills are in great demand, the chances of a well-trained individual leaving for greener pastures is a reality. But you should be asking ‘What happens if we don’t train them and they stay?’

Strategic value to training  

If you can’t uplift and enhance your workforce, your enterprise’s future is threatened. I won’t launch into the factors that make training critical for South Africa, other than to say it’s very necessary. Yet training as altruism or a last resort is not good business. There has to be a strategic value to training programmes - that’s what I glean from our experience.

PackSolve is a specialist manufacturer of industrial packaging with no limits to size and mass, servicing the mining, power, automotive, steel processing, freight & logistics and manufacturing exporter sectors. We develop our own solutions and run several sites that incorporate both blue and white-collar employees.

The business surfaced through the merger of several companies over the previous eight years, which also happened to be the genesis of our training requirements.

The smaller individual businesses didn’t need much rank-and-file, as the few employees had easy access to top management. But as we grew, management layers developed and exposed weaknesses in those areas. We needed better-skilled managers and we particularly wanted to promote employees from the work floor, rewarding their loyalty and providing room to grow with the business. These demands prompted us to look at training.

Up until 2016, most of the focus went into consolidating the business. But the management issue prompted a revisit of PackSolve’s strategy. A strategic view on training shifted our thinking away from box ticking.

PackSolve Academy

PackSolve launched a learnership programme initially focused on external candidates. It helped determine how to approach internal training and we formalised training into the PackSolve Academy framework. Over time, we’ve created a specialised HR function to oversee the academy and perform needs analysis, and also hired a skills development facilitator.

Instead of going all-out with management development training, the programme scaled. Management training started at the top, with the most senior leaders participating in the first year. This scope has broadened every subsequent year and currently includes site managers.

As we are a manufacturing outfit, there are already mandatory training programmes to operate heavy machinery, support health and safety, and so on. But by adding a strategic bent to our training, we could expand those cultures to offer more opportunities to site employees. The response has been very positive and it’s telling that many of this year’s applications came from last year’s alums. The value of training is definitely resonating with our employees.

There are other aspects to the PackSolve Academy, such as a LinkedIn Learning license that gives our office workers access to online courses - a function we aim to expand to Shop floor employees as well. We’ve also expanded beyond management training to include production technology. Along the way, PackSolve developed a better understanding of what the business needs: for example, we stopped outsourcing conflict resolution training and cultivated the skills internally. This gave a notable boost to the authority employees saw in their managers. There is also more nuance around how we identify site and individual skill requirements.

PackSolve Academy is a work in progress, as all strategic elements are. It evolves every day, underpinned by reporting and clear performance indicators. The liberating factor was to make it one of PackSolve’s four strategic pillars. This attached training to business success and has branched into new exciting areas. The signs of success are there: our employees love it, our customers are impressed by it, and we are even looking at sharing some of our expertise with state programmes.

Skills development in South Africa isn’t a barrier, not when viewed through a strategic prism. Getting there doesn’t happen overnight, but small determined steps create the way. I believe strategic training can help fix South Africa’s unemployment and brain drain challenges. Follow your needs, meet them through training, and you’ll reach the same conclusion too.

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