Companies are helping their support staff improve communication and technical skills through training sessions in a bid to create a better workplace culture
Every employee —from reception staff to people who serve coffee—is a branding touch point and reflects a company’s culture
Once a week, Krishna Chaudhury, 30, leaves his housekeeping work at WeWork’s Platina Tower in Gurugram, to attend a conference in the same office. There, he joins 200-odd fellow WeWork support staff, including housekeepers, multi-specialist technicians and security guards, to learn English. “English is useful for me in my job and for my personal growth," says Chaudhury.
The weekly classroom sessions are followed by writing skills assessment and one-on-one interactions with volunteers from within WeWork.
The English training is part of an initiative by WeWork’s community service to help their support staff improve soft skills. “Investment in soft-skill development improves the member and employee experience and offers the staff constant growth and a learning curve," says Raghuvinder Singh Pathania, general manager (north), WeWork India, Gurugram.
Companies are fast realizing that while technical skills are important for support staff, improving their education and interpersonal skills is also essential for their personal growth. This also comes in handy when staff has to interact with employees and clients, making a difference in improving the overall experience within the office and reflecting well on the startup and its work culture.
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The support staff is often the first point of contact for a client, a customer or a potential employee. “Housekeeping or security are effective ambassadors of the brand and everything, from speech, conduct to appearance and culture, reflects it," says Srinivasa Addepalli, founder and chief executive officer of edtech startup GlobalGyan Academy of Management Education.
Support staff needs not only specific job skills but also soft-and life skills to do their job smoothly and reflect the ethos of the brand, says Gurugram-based S.K. Nigam, human resources director, at Stratbeans Consulting, an e-learning company. “Right from the staff at reception, to people who serve coffee are branding touch points and reflect a company’s culture and brand."
That’s the reason Nigam ensures his company’s support staff of nine is regularly upskilled. Sanjit Bala, 28, is one of his staff members. Since joining Stratbeans Consulting in 2014 as an office boy, Bala has received training in communication and how to invest better. Stratbeans recently organized a weeklong session on basic English learning, which Bala found “very useful". “I feel more confident when interacting with employees and vendors," says Bala, who has already raised a request to learn data entry.
Improving the skills and confidence of the support staff is especially useful in a bootstrapped startup or growing organization.
Four years ago, when Santosh Tapkir, 41, joined cloud consulting company Blazeclan Technologies in Pune, he started out as a peon. Now, Tapkir is an office boy, responsible for filing, storage of documents, collaterals and other office files—all thanks to constant in-house training.
“I have learnt business etiquette, how to converse effectively with clients and employees, basic computer training and speaking in English, all on the job," Tapkir says.
The training has also given Tapkir an opportunity to take on more office duties. At present, he is considering studying an internal system so he can take on administration responsibilities like travel requirements and purchase-order generation.
Blazeclan Technologies, which has 16 staff members in housekeeping, security and pantry sections, spends money every six months to train their staff in basic spoken English, administration functions, personal hygiene and guest etiquettes and interactions, as well as use of equipment and first-aid, fire protocols and sexual harassment policies.
It’s an essential expenditure, says Varoon Rajani, founder and CEO, Blazeclan Technologies. “Housekeeping functions play a critical role in defining the culture of a startup. It’s important that the staff is well trained in their duties and well aligned with organizational values," he says.
Blazeclan keeps its cost low by ensuring that training is done in-house by the administration.
WeWork, meanwhile, offers weekly skill-based training sessions, including latest housekeeping techniques, equipment handing, and operational, mechanical and electrical training.
Regular lessons by in-house departments help not only in keeping the staff employees up-to-date but also help in giving a boost to their morale, encouraging them to multitask, believes Raghuvinder Singh Pathania. “The staff feels valued, which boosts their morale and encourages them to continue working and progress in life," he says.
In Stratbeans, too, training is conducted in-house by administration heads and people-experience teams.
“We invest in training our support staff so they can imbibe and represent our company culture and values," says Nigam, adding that as support staff interacts with other employees, if they’re treated well, it directly impacts the way they serve the company’s clients. Training helps them feel like they are part of the company, and is key in retaining employees across the board, not only staff members, Nigam adds. “Without adequate training they might feel out of place or stagnated and be tempted to switch jobs."
The money is well spent, agrees Rajani. After all, well-trained staff leads to a safe and sanitized workplace, which promotes respect and elevates morale of the staff and motivates the whole company to do better. More importantly, such training helps the support staff become better inside and outside the office, adds Rajani.