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Increasing productivity: Workforce training and development

Published:Sunday | July 11, 2010 | 12:00 AM
Workers clean ackees in preparation for canning in Danver's Pen, St Thomas, in this 2009 photo. - file

Paulette Dunn-Smith, Contributor

This is the first in a series of features geared at enhancing productivity at the workplace.

Jamaica has an ambitious goal of becoming a developed nation by the year 2030. In order to get there, we need to have a globally competitive and productive economy, capable of sustaining a steady positive growth rate. Although our productivity is one of the lowest in the Caribbean, we do have a relatively large labour force, 1.3 million strong. This translates to valuable human capital. Combined, they all bring something to the workforce, be it knowledge, skills, attitude, experience and ability or combinations thereof, which all increase their own value as well as their employers' value in the marketplace. This large pool of human capital is a great positive of our workforce. What else then can individuals, firms and the business sector do in order to improve productivity and increase our competitiveness? Through this column, I will be focusing on workforce development towards a more competitive and productive workforce.

The term 'training and development' or as is more frequently being referred, 'learning and development' is multifaceted, but in general, it is concerned with activities within the organisation which seek to better the performance of individuals, groups and teams including the acquisition of knowledge, skills and attitude necessary to carry out a specific task or activity of the job. Because the world is changing at a much faster rate than we can keep pace with, it is important that employees and supervisors, indeed, those who contribute to the production process, keep abreast of changes in the job in order to remain relevant and current. To do so, workers and organisations must be able to assess their own capability and reskill when necessary. This is done through 'benchmarking', using international best practices and standards in the job to improve performance and the production process.

importance of training

Many persons are involved in this process: trainers, facilitators, mentors, coaches, managers and leaders. They are all central to workforce training and development. Research has shown that successful companies which invest in worker training and development, recognising the contribution of their employees, come out far ahead of those other businesses that do not. With the best of intentions, several companies continue to use traditional training methods and in-house training content which prove to be out of sync with global developments. Effective cutting-edge training and development however, can yield significant returns as a key driver in sustaining a company's competitive advantage.

Well-trained employees are more capable and more willing to take control over their jobs as they acquire positive attitudes. They need less supervision, and free up supervisors and managers to do other tasks. Employees who are properly trained are more capable of answering the questions of customers, which in turn builds customer loyalty. Employees who understand the business complain less, are more satisfied and are more motivated. All this leads to better management-employee relations. Workforce training and development, therefore, is a crucial investment strategy with solid value and proven bottom-line results.

The benefits to be gained by investing in workforce training and development include:

Increased staff morale and job satisfaction

Highly motivated employees

A willingness to adopt new technologies and methods

A flexible, creative, innovative workforce

Reduced employee turnover

Enhanced company image and status

Increased efficiencies and productivity resulting in financial gains to the company.

Over the next few weeks, I will be focusing on ways in which the productivity of the Jamaican workforce can be increased specifically through training and development with a global outlook. The topics will be wide and varied including successful on-the job training strategies, competency-based training, using emotional intelligence; communication and interpersonal in the workforce, leadership and attending to Generation X and Y in the workplace. Next week, we will look at Skills Training in Post-Conflict Communities: Valuable Lessons for Jamaica.

I welcome your comments and invite you to send any questions you wish to have answered. I look forward to hearing from you.

Paulette Dunn-Smith is an international trainer and workforce development expert. She is the executive director, Dunn, Pierre, Barnett & Associates Ltd & chairman, Caribbean Career and Professional Development Institute. Contact her at or