The Real Cost of Employee Training Programs

After a long week, my spouse and I enjoy getting out for some fun on the weekend. We’ll often head to local restaurants to relax and catch up; last week, we went out for dinner. Generally, there are no issues with the service we receive, but this time was a much different outing.

Upon sitting down at the table, we both noticed that the knifes and a water glass were dirty. Where had this come from? We’d always received an exceptional experience at this restaurant; why was the service so different now?

After speaking to the restaurant’s manager, the offending implements were replaced, apologies were offered, and we received desserts at no charge. This goodwill gesture on behalf of the server and restaurant manager saved a potentially dangerous situation – disenfranchising regular customers with poor service.

The ‘Real Costs’ of Poor Customer Service

Like most organizations, restaurants rely on a group of steady customers, pleasant surroundings, and strong relationships. Reputation is what they protect most. After all, a single customer might be worth hundreds or thousands of dollars of revenue to a restaurant each year.

How much is it worth to keep these relationships? In my restaurant experience, the cost to the restaurant was two desserts, and a rewash of some glassware and cutlery. The cost to the restaurant may have only been a few dollars, but it helped me overcome the shattered expectations of great service. It’ll help me take a chance on that restaurant again in the future.

Dissatisfaction is the Greatest Business Expense

Those few dollars’ worth of desserts also helped avoid other negative outcomes, such as the bad-mouthing of the restaurant with friends, family, and social media networks. While the impact of an unsatisfied customer can never truly be known, it’s big enough that businesses should avoid it at almost all cost.

But instead of paying their way out of a poor-service situation, what if the restaurant had been proactive in ensuring quality was maintained?

Effective Training Prevents Poor Experiences

As a job skills learning consultant, I naturally started thinking about the ways this situation could have been avoided through employee training:

  • How was the dishwasher was trained?
  • What procedures were in place for washing knives, forks, plates, and glassware?
  • Were local dishwashing regulations adhered to?
  • Who performed the last cleanliness inspection?

Your organization may not be a small local restaurant, but customer impressions still depend on the quality of the products and services provided. Customer retention relies on quality products and services; deviating from this understanding will lead to lower revenue and higher expenses.

How Effective is Your Employee Training Program?

Most organizations spend a great deal of time and money building the competencies of their management team. While that’s important and necessary, (what organization doesn’t need skilled leadership?) successful organizations understand there is equal value to training all employees, regardless of their position in the company structure.

Lower-level employees generally have the most interaction with customers; therefore, it’s essential that these employees can consistently provide high-quality service.

Effectiveness of Current Training Methods

Research into employee training programs has identified three main methods for building operational competence:




Reading Usually operations manuals or policy documents. 10%
Audio-Visual Video presentations, often known as e-learning. 20%
Job Shadowing Recruits follow skilled employees for a day or two. 30%

What Training Programs are Most Effective?

Despite low effectiveness rates, employers keep performing the same types of onboarding and training programs. This is foolish; diversifying your organization’s training routines with the following activities can help boost its positive impact:

Method Description Effectiveness
Discussions Open conversation about the process. 50%
Guided Skill Practice A series of tasks designed to challenge employees and reveal where room for growth is available. 75%
Training Others Conceptualizing and leading others through how process is performed. 90%

These methods are used less frequently because they aren’t as easy to implement as more common (but less effective) techniques. They take time to plan, and require employees to be more engaged during the training process.

Consider incorporating these three methodologies into your employee training programs for better outcomes.

Employee Training Programs Maximize Worker Value

Some organizations don’t want to spend the time, effort, and resources required to build employee competence and capability. It’s seen as not value-added, especially in organizations with high employee turnover. Why spend money giving someone skills if they’ll just end up working for another employer?

What if Trained Employees Leave the Company?

It’s not an ideal situation, but there are instances where employees who’ve received training will leave your organization. When this happens, employers may feel like they’ve ‘lost out’ on the money used to improve employee skillsets. This leads to fewer employee training programs because employers must calculate risk/reward to understand if the training I worthwhile.

The value of training employees isn’t entirely in their new abilities though; training also supports increased employee engagement and higher morale. Employees want to be considered skilled, capable and competent. If they are, they are much less likely to leave a job where they feel their contribution is recognized.

What if Untrained Employees Decide to Stay?

Another way of understanding the value workplace training programs provide is to consider the costs to your organization if training isn’t performed. In most cases, failure to provide training means businesses processes breakdown and customer satisfaction is reduced.

In the example of an unclean restaurant, how much value is the dishwasher really providing? Would the employee/business save money in the future by educating on proper techniques? Will it improve customer satisfaction?

Canadian Government Funding for Employee Training

Government grants are available to help businesses reduce the cost of third-party employee training programs. When used strategically to improve the skills of employees, these funding programs can greatly enhance business potential.

Learn More About the Canada Job Grant

Guest Author Profile: Shaun Browne

Shaun Browne is a consultant specializing in technical and operational training. He has developed operations learning solutions that build employee competence and capability, helping their organizations to improve operations metrics.

Shaun can be reached at


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