Markets are often capricious and the requirements that firms place on their employees change based on developments within specific sectors. In order to keep pace in the market, companies often rely on training courses to enhance the qualifications and performance of their employees. In the past, companies, especially large multinationals, frequently offered foreign-language training to their employees to ensure smooth communication between owners, managers and employees.
However, knowledge of foreign languages has already become a basic requirement for appointment to certain positions and so trends in employee training have shifted towards coaching and working on other skills.
“There is a new generation emerging, well-equipped with languages, that often already has work experience abroad,” Zuzana Markušová of training firm FBE Bratislava told The Slovak Spectator. “Therefore the need for language education within companies is decreasing.”
Yet, in language training too there is a shift: from elementary vocabulary to professional terminology and interactive exercises of the kind that are still popular among companies, according to Adela Makovinská of AMConsulting.
Training firms have confirmed that employers now focus on honing the practical skills of their employees and say the greatest interest is in training for managerial skills as well as IT skills, such as the ability to work with new software like emerging versions of MS Windows. According to these firms, e-learning is becoming increasingly popular as well. Complete training materials are sent electronically, meaning that employees no longer need to attend training sessions in person.
Coaching, which is a way of developing the individual potential of managers, is among the latest trends. The objective of such training is to lead trainees to find solutions to a variety of problems without requiring assistance. According to training companies, interest in this type of training has increased. Markušová says that an individual approach to clients became popular approximately two years ago.
However, some observers suggest that this might represent a ‘fashion’ in HR rather than a long-term development.
The clientele of training firms is diverse, reflecting all spheres of the economy. Most clients come from the IT and financial sector, manufacturing and agricultural companies, but also include public and state institutions.
Crisis decreased demand
The global economic downturn that erupted in 2008 had a significant and immediate impact on demand for employee training. The prices of specific training courses dropped, which caused a decline in the profits of training companies and was partially reflected in the quality of tutors, as well as particular services, according to Markušová. Training firms confirm that education budgets are always the first to be cut.
“The crisis considerably reduced demand for training, and in the first phase companies started cancelling their education budgets,” said Miroslav Haranta, sales manager of New Horizons Slovakia, a company providing IT training courses. However, his firm is now detecting a gradual revival in interest in education, he told The Slovak Spectator.
Despite budgetary pressures, companies tend to prefer training which takes place outside the workplace. Adela Makovinská of AMConsulting suggests that training sessions held within companies' internal environments suffer from reduced concentration, attendance and interaction.
Haranta warns against another problem with training sessions held inside companies.
“The firms send one person to be trained, believing that in two or three days he or she will become an expert able to train the whole company and replace a professional tutor whose experience has been proved by years of practice,” Haranta said. “This action is, however, at the expense of the quality of information that employees receive.”
Yet employees do not always look upon training as something that will benefit them.
Educational firms say that only about one quarter of all employees considers training to be a bonus. A majority of employees regard courses as a form of pressure exerted by their employer. Although they are often appreciative at the end of the course, employees primarily lack motivation, says Makovinská.
Weak motivation may be reflected in the effectiveness of the training. Employees often overrate their abilities to use common programmes such as MS Word or Excel, and are therefore uninterested in courses aimed at these applications. In practice, they use a normal calculator when working with numbers from Excel, Haranta believes.
An employee of a firm undergoing training should be able to sell its benefits among other employees, said Markušová of FBE.
A different approach
When compared to training activities abroad, training courses in Slovakia are very similar in content, but can be cheaper, according to Makovinská. The training company EDUKA adds that training in Slovakia might lag behind that conducted elsewhere due to lack of money.
According to Haranta, in France, for example, each company is obliged to send its employees to undergo training, while in Germany courses are supported financially by the government.
“Firms in Slovakia put a lot of money into technology, but hardly anybody is willing to invest money in employee education and so ensure efficient use of that technology,” Haranta stated.
In recent years substantial sums of money from European funds have been invested into adult education, Marián Bilický of TM Consulting told The Slovak Spectator, adding that the whole business community has become used to grants that make up about 80 percent of all expenses. He says everyone waits for these grants and nobody expects to pay the full cost of training their employees via a course. But this is absolutely normal in a developed market economy, he said.
14. Mar 2011 at 0:00 | By Ivana Kvetková and Radka Minarechová