Though compensation may remain static, what employees value greatly is learning.

As if you didn’t have enough on your plate over the past three years, here comes a really important dilemma. Every employee still on your payroll has stayed with you because these are the best of the best – your heroes. These are the people who make a difference to your customers, to your suppliers, and to the co-workers. They also make a huge difference to you.

Now we are hearing more optimism and hope. We are hearing and reading about money being spent on infrastructure, from dock facilities in the Southeast and Northwest to all manner of road and bridge work. It might still be a false start, but it is a start nonetheless. It is about time, too.

With this renewed investment activity there will come a more liberal approach to staffing. Companies are starting to hire again.

This is the time when those employees whom you have selected to be your key employees will be starting to look around at other opportunities. The grass is always greener on the other side, especially in light of the fact that compensation packages – salaries, wages, incentives and benefits – will be flat compared with even 2009. Most companies will not be coming forward with any raises for these key employees, and they know it.

So how do you keep them and attract new employees? I believe one of the critical areas is in training. Making each employee more valuable to the market by providing training will resonate with the type of key employee that you want to keep. They recognize that the company and the markets have not completely bounced back and that we can’t return to the old “business as usual” mantra. They are aware of the world that we are living in today and are more tolerant and patient. But training, improving their intellectual capital, is something that they will appreciate. It is also a generational issue. The younger employees, the “Gen-X” and the “Millennium” groups don’t have much patience to be plugged into a slot and left there. They want to learn, and if they don’t learn they will not stay.

Training, however, can be expensive. Yes, I know you know the old adage that it is much more expensive to keep untrained people on the job than to spend the money on training, but most of the dealers have not returned their training budgets to the levels that existed before 2008.

New Ways to Train

There is some good news out there for all of us. Training has changed as well. It is no longer local universities and community colleges doing the training. Technical schools are also back in business after a slide in attendance over five years. But there are other changes that have made subject matter training much less costly than in the past. The newer technologies such as “Go to Meeting” have allowed instructors and teachers to make content available over the Internet with webinars at a lower price. There are also self-study programs over the Internet. These are classes that an employee can register for and follow at their own pace.

The AED Foundation has all three methods of learning available to equipment dealers. It is an exciting time actually for the “learning industry.” Peter Drucker predicted in the early 1990s that adult education was going to become a very strong opportunity for both students and teachers, and it has come to pass. With Quest, Learning Centers, we offer three levels of classroom training and have done so for more than 15 years. While not back to pre-2008 level, attendance has returned to a reasonable level, and in 2011 we are anticipating that we will be all the way back.

I think you will agree with me that developing the employees you have determined you want to keep is critical to their retention. I think you will also agree that learning is a key factor in the selection of a job by a prospective employee, the kind of employee you want to attract. So here is another component of “The New Reality.” Learning will keep you in the game and with the right type of people.

by Ron Slee
February, 2011
CED Magazine

About CED Magazine

Construction Equipment Distribution is published by Associated Equipment Distributors, a nonprofit trade association founded in 1919, whose membership is primarily comprised of the leading equipment dealerships and rental companies in the U.S. and Canada.

With CED, content is king. No fluff, no advertorials – CED just gives AED members what they want to read: business information, industry and association news, plus fresh, original and useful feature articles that they share with their management teams. Our subjects range from rental, product support, sales strategy and customer service to technology, construction markets and legislation – and much more.