Recruit and retain through training

Sandrine Boucquey, Director RH & Legal, EBRC

Long underrated, the role of training in recruiting and retaining talent is now well understood by the private and public business community. Yves Baden, Director of Human Resources at CFL and Sandrine Boucquey, Head of Human Ressources and Legal at EBRC, discuss their practices in this area.

In a world that is evolving at an increasingly steady pace, it has become unrealistic to believe that your initial training - a master's degree for example - provides skills that are sufficiently comprehensive to meet the changing challenges that arise over the course of a career. Today, candidates of all ages are well aware of this. When they apply for a position, they find out about the training opportunities offered by the company, to ensure that they can maintain their skills as long as their employment contract lasts.
Businesses therefore have no other choice but to set up extensive training programmes to attract talent that, in some sectors more than others, has become a rare commodity... "For a business that aims for significant growth, like ours, in a very competitive environment, which needs very specific profiles, the training offer is very important, said Sandrine Boucquey, Head of HR and Legal at EBRC (European Business Reliance Centre), a business specialising in the provision of secure IT solutions. This is one of the points of attention for candidates, but also a way of ensuring the loyalty of our employees."

Agility to meet changing needs

However, the presence of a quality training offer is not just a recruitment issue. "Developing skills is part of our overall strategy, our culture, said Sandrine Boucquey. In our sector, we need more and more specialised skills in order to stay up-to-date with new technologies. This requires us to constantly train our teams to meet our customers’ new needs. As a result, a large number of training days is provided since, on average, approximately seven training days are dispensed per person each year. "
Designing a training programme in this moving world can quickly become a challenge. "We have to remain very agile when designing our programmes", added Ms. Boucquey. We have to constantly stay abreast of rapid changes in technology and the new requirements they create for our customers. Fortunately, many organisations today support training needs in Luxembourg, without hiking up their prices."

Train what cannot be bought on the market

Luxembourg’s national railways company (CFL) sees things differently. As a large public structure (4,561 employees), the CFL does not really have any issues as regards retaining staff. "Many of our employees complete their entire careers here", said Yves Baden, CFL HR and Organization Director. That being said, we, of course, also have to cope with rapidly changing technologies, be they digital technologies shared by other sectors or developments more specific to the railways. Training is therefore necessary to adapt to digital switchboards, to trains guided and constantly monitored by electronics, the implementation of Wi-Fi in trains and stations, etc."
These training courses are mostly done internally, in a training centre inaugurated fifteen years ago. This is also where the initial training sessions for new employees take place, which constitute an important part of the eight days of training per year and per employee provided by CFL. "This is a peculiarity of our field : some of the skills that we are looking for are not available on the market. We have to train the candidates who join us internally in order to teach them specific techniques specific to the railway sector", said Yves Baden.

Knowledge and attitude

However, the CFL also intends to use its extensive training offer as a showcase. "We will soon highlight our training on our online job server, said Yves Baden. This is a significant investment that we are making for our employees and it would be a shame not to talk about it. That said, it can be an obstacle for some young people who have recently obtained their degree. They do not want to consider any more about training because they just finished their academic careers. On the other hand, some former university students show a desire for continuous training."
Within the CFL, as within EBRC, there is a wide variety of training opportunities. "Beyond the initial training courses fundamentally related to the railway sector, we obviously offer a whole range of training courses which relate not only to knowledge, but also to soft skills – such as team management, and others", said Yves Baden. "Beside highly-specific technical training and language training, we also offer a lot of training related to attitudes, said Sandrine Boucquey. I am referring to the training courses devoted to public speaking, for instance. In fact, each of our employees is responsible for its own development plan : they are invited to analyse their career path and assess their weaknesses in order to request appropriate actions or training."

The challenge of organising external training

Although the CFL regularly calls on its internal skill development centre to dispense the various training courses, this is not the case at EBRC. For the latter company, organising training courses can be a complex affair, especially if, in addition to working with an external provider, hotels and transport need to be booked (for training abroad). "The challenge is that we have a lot of different expertise and that some training courses are so specialised that they only concern one of our employees", said Sandrine Boucquey. It is therefore necessary to be able to find enough third parties to ensure that the training course can be dispensed. In some cases, we have to leave the Greater Region because training for certain very specialised skills is simply not available in Luxembourg."
The issue is therefore not as complex for the CFL, even though, like any business, it also sometimes has to seek further afield in order to find the resources needed to train its teams, which consist of more than 100 different trades. "For the funicular, for example, we had to call on Swiss specialists to train our teams", explained Yves Baden. We did not have the necessary skills, neither internally nor even in Luxembourg. We also have to contend with this issue when new technologies arrive on the market. Our trainers must be well trained on these new technologies in order to be able to then dispense training to the rest of the teams."

Training boosts well-being at work

Essential for staying abreast of new developments in technology and keeping your place in a competitive market, essential for recruiting and retaining particular profiles, training, according to our interlocutors, also has more unsuspected virtues for employees : it offers a real added value for well-being at work. "We have noted this, said the CFL HR Director. Workers will always feel better in their job when they are better able to carry out the tasks assigned to them, when they work in a safer environment, when they are more comfortable. It is therefore particularly important that the training courses bear fruit. This is why we have implemented a system of hot feedback and adjustment of training based on everyone’s comments."
Sandrine Boucquey also discussed the benefit of training for staff, emphasizing employees’ involvement in their continuous training process. "We also ask our employees, especially in the past, to fill in the questionnaire for the “Great Place to Work” survey, in order to find out what they thought of their training", she explained. The feedback is often very positive and we see that our employees very much appreciate the fact that the training is well organised. In fact, this is where we see that this component is very important for people!"

How to choose the right training?

The feedback also makes it possible to better select, from year to year, the catalogue of training courses available to employees. "Several elements come into play, said Sandrine Boucquey. We take into account the feedback from the training already provided, but we also have to assess new needs every year. On this basis, our experts in each sector choose the most reputable organisations for their field of activity, in collaboration with the HR Department. They are very involved in the choice of quality partners. On our side, we also contact organisations that we already know and which are organising new training courses. We focus our search on Luxembourg but also neighbouring countries for some more specific technologies."
The experts in each profession are also at the helm within the CFL, since they are in the best position to assess the new needs of each profession and the quality of the training offered. The CFL also set up internal mentoring or coaching processes that enable newcomers to be more comfortable in their job, by providing them with support in the early stages. "We consider learning by doing to be very important, said Yves Baden. By working in this way, our employees are immediately put in an everyday work situation and quickly learn to develop the most important skills. We also work with simulators for train drivers : when an event occurs on the tracks, we can recreate it later on in the simulator and assess whether the driver's reaction was positive or negative."

As has been shown, the spectrum of training is broad and it responds to constant and increasingly rapid technological developments. In any case, the fact of complex training strategies being implemented within businesses shows that they have understood the vital importance of this ongoing process, both for the well-being of their employees and that of their business.

Supporting retraining and internal mobility

At CFL, retraining is an important issue. In this context, training also plays a leading role. "We have a lot of employees who are no longer able to practice their profession because of medical restrictions and are forced to reorient their careers, said Yves Baden. We work with them to consider the new skills they could acquire according to the new needs that arise and their desires. We therefore direct them to the appropriate training to develop these new skills. In the end, the company wins, and so do the employees."
As the type of work is very different at EBRC, cases of medical restrictions preventing employees from doing their job are rarer. The focus there is placed on internal mobility. "There are no fixed and unchanging career paths here", explained Sandrine Boucquey. For instance, employees start in EBRC’s customer service Department because of good IT skills, and this position serves as a springboard for another assignment that corresponds to their new expectations. We support them in this process by providing them with a whole curriculum enabling them to take on a new role when the time is right."