As an organisation that includes not one but two South Africans in our Management Team, we can (hopefully) say without fear of reproach that our native country is not particularly well recognised for leading industry best practice in many sectors. However, there is one piece of legislation, little known outside the country, about which the corporate community should be extremely proud.

Companies that put more than 500K Rand through payroll are legally obliged to spend at least one percent of the total on employee training and development.

In fact, the government takes that one percent as tax, and it is only returned once the employer can prove the investment was made.

The corporate travel industry across the globe is suffering from an acute skills shortage. A significant number of talented people were lost after the mass redundancies post global financial crash. Attracting many of them back was impossible given how travel industry wages compare poorly to other sectors. In days gone by, new recruits could be enticed with perks. There was staff travel on airlines, employee rates in hotels and an abundance of educational jollies organised for agents by suppliers. These sweeteners still exist, but not to anywhere near the same extent as before the recession.

The way businesses treat their people is, therefore, more important than ever. It’s no coincidence that companies with the lowest staff attrition rates are those that invest time and money on training and development programmes. It’s unlikely governments across the world will replicate the South African model any time soon, so business leaders and line managers will have to be proactive.

Training should not be seen as an optional extra courtesy of the HR department. It is, instead, a solution to a business problem. Training programmes should never be piecemeal. Education should be aligned with business objectives and support future strategies. Training should be ingrained a company’s culture and become part of its DNA.

A recent Forbes report listed six reasons why high-performing employees decide to leave their jobs:

  • The company has NO clear vision.
  • The employee has NO connection to the bigger picture of the company.
  • They have NO empathy
  • They are NOT listened to
  • They have NO emotional investment in the business
  • They are NOT motivated because there is NO fun and they see NO future

If you were to design a training and development programme that would remove the words NO and NOT from those six points, you could engineer an environment that breeds loyalty. If an employee feels like they have a purpose, a future and role to play, they will have little reason to leave.

Train and they leave versus don’t and they stay

In certain quarters of the business world there remains a reticence to invest in people on the basis that they might up and leave. The alternative, as most astute business people know, is that you spend nothing to improve your human assets and they stay within the business, underperforming for many years.

T&E is more often that not the third biggest expense for companies with an international footprint. But it should not be forgotten that the second biggest expense is headcount. People make businesses. They are, arguably, companies’ most important assets. They should, therefore, be treated as such.