In the heat of battle, we can sometimes rationalize that we are able to make choices that in reality are not ours to make. Case in point: training and education for our employees.

Most of us don’t have the luxury of opting for or against training and education, but we do have to decide everything else about it.

Ignoring education and training issues at your company does not excuse you from footing the bill and living with the results. If you have employees, you are engaging in training of one kind or another, whether you choose to manage it or not.

They figure it out

You may have a great crew. Given sufficient time and resources, they can figure out just about anything, and if they can’t, you can show them how.

Of course, this whole process is completely dependent on somebody being able to learn. The “self-taught” can be brilliant, but you will usually find them expanding their minds while on the clock.

All new employees require some kind of training from you. Even if they “train as they go,” you have invested in their development whether you intended to or not.

You’ll never forget your worst mistakes. Nobody does. They can be painful enough to ingrain themselves into your work forever.

Employees also learn from their mistakes and maybe this is one of the things that makes experience so valuable. Most of us appreciate those who have learned from mistakes they have made while working for their previous employer.

Training choices

We might not be able to choose whether or not to provide education and training, but we can decide if that training will be intentional or random, planned or unmanaged.

You may find that you are not completely able to determine who will be trained as employees engage in learning daily. On-the-job training may take place with or without your endorsement. Luckily, it is one of the most efficient and effective methods — if the “trainer” is competent.

Merely engaging in commerce places you at the center of the workplace. Sandwiched between the consumer and the workforce, you exist at ground zero for knowledge transfer. You also provide any real or perceived lack of opportunity for training.

You finance 100% of all on-the-job training. If you find you are unable to eliminate it, you better learn how else to do it, making it efficient, effective, and affordable.

How do you train?

Do you choose what employees need to know or wait to see what they come up with on their own? Know that you will finance 100% of the results, positive or negative.

Do you choose the projects that you take on and train employees accordingly or accept the work that your employees can handle as your mainstay product?

Do you thoughtfully determine which employee will engage in the training or wait until they will become apparent in one form or another when they finally require your attention?

Do you decide who is to do the training and assign mentors, or wait to see who your new employees will pick as a role model?

Are your education and training endeavors proactive? Does your program reduce mistakes and losses? You will find that when your safety training is good and safety goals are being met, nothing happens.

While training must respond to specific needs, it’s less efficient when used only after the damage is done. If you find that the majority of training exercises are “after the fact” affairs, you may have an inefficient training program.

Is your training redundant? Does it have to be constantly repeated? The most efficient training is that which can be accomplished with minimal repetition.

Footing the bill

Unless you have formed partnerships in education, you will pay 100% of the costs.

Once you’ve accepted the reality that training and education costs are inevitable, your best strategy is to do the same thing you do with everything else you pay for — get the most for your money.

How much mileage can you get from each dollar spent on developing your employees? It doesn’t have as much to do with how much you spend, as it does with how well you apply programs to your objectives.

Make a list of your needs, take an inventory of your resources, and design programs that maximize every dollar.

Sidebar: Reasons to provide training

Labor demands:Employers are often unable to hire a sufficient workforce without training their own workers.

Worker proficiency: Training and education for proficiency can be needed for entry-level employees, as well as at the highest end of technical work.

Workplace safety: Your company cannot survive the cost of accidents in the workplace. Proactive training is the best investment possible.

Recruitment advantages: Promoting your training program during the hiring process can give you an edge.

Employment longevity: A plan for the future, clear expectations for progress, and a sense of purpose give employees a reason to stay with you.

Employee accountability: When expectations are clear, they can be tied to performance evaluations and wages. Workers are not given a raise; they work toward a pay increase and earn it through achieving the goals set forth in the training program.

Customer satisfaction: This is maximized when your employees learn from formal training programs rather than from their on-the-job mistakes.