Staff training matters

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Recruitment Matters talked to Mark Esom, founder of Fuel Recruitment, on the benefits of taking a more structured approach to training.

Q. You’ve recently taken a more structured approach to your training, why?

A. The main reason is the attraction and retention of people. Our industry is no different from any other at the moment – we’re all competing for talent. And you can decide not to bother training staff, because you think you might lose them, or you can formalise your training, giving people a specific structure to work to. People want to work for a business that invests in them, and the better you support people, the more likely they are to stay and repay that investment.

Q. What structure does your training take?

A. We created an internal academy covering the first 12 months of people’s careers with us. We’ve got a very in-depth manual built through many years of recruitment knowledge. We test people at three, six and 12 months against that, using evidence gained from their practical experience. We then give them an accreditation to say they’ve reached a level of competence and are therefore more senior. It’s hard. People have to learn – they can’t just sit there and coast. But it’s really helped us with retention. We had hardly any attrition last year.

Working with the IRP, we then introduced a leadership programme for our more senior people. It’s designed to improve their knowledge and give them more accountability for the day-to-day workings of the business.

In smaller companies leaders end up doing a bit of everything: you need to understand legislation, the workings of your clients, how payrolls and invoicing operate, people management and HR issues, as well as how to recruit. Gaining that breadth of experience is one of the biggest appeals to working in a business like ours, but you need support to do it well.

With that training in place, we’re now looking at developing more sales-based training for those that sit in the middle.

Q. How important was it to get the balance right between internal and external training resources?

A. Very. Firstly, it’s about getting the right people to deliver the right concepts. We had quite intensive discussions with the IRP about what we wanted for the leadership programme because I didn’t just want to plug our people into an existing module. I wanted something bespoke. Our business is different to every other business and we’re at a different stage of our journey. We wanted a specific course that would add value.

Secondly, it’s about the time that’s required to deliver that course. Often the greatest knowledge to impart is already in-house, but you need to remember what you are there for and not end up as a training college. Getting an expert can be quicker and more efficient, even though it costs you a bit of money.

Q. What was the hardest part of formalising your training?

A. The reluctance of people to accept change. There was initial pushback around testing people on something they were already doing. We needed to explain how it would make them better at their jobs. It’s more about communication than anything.

Q. How will you make sure your training doesn’t get stale?

A. If training is delivered well – and interactively – it shouldn’t get stale. Use small workshops, get people involved, and talk about current issues or recent legislative changes. We can look at updating certain parts of it when the time is right but we certainly won’t have to change the whole programme.

Q. What advice would you give to other firms looking to formalise their own training?

A. Every business is slightly different and will have their own perspective on how to do it. The training that the IRP provides is very good, but you still need to invest the time to apply it in the right way to your own business and ensure your staff buy into it.

Training helps to strengthen the culture of a business – it creates a stickier work environment that hopefully encourages more of your people to stay.

The Institute of Recruitment Professionals represents, educates, qualifies and supports the careers of individual recruitment professionals throughout the UK. Becoming a member of the IRP demonstrates your commitment to professionalism and best practice in recruitment and is signified by letters attached to your title.

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