How Much Training Do Employees Want?

It’s easy to feel unappreciated, but according to a recent study, employees are not ignoring, or tired, of what you do. On the contrary, they want more.

A study of more than 200 full-time employees by InterCall’s Digital Media Services team on their experiences with corporate training showed that two out of three employees say training plays an important role in their decision to stay with their current company or position. The survey, which came to my attention through an InterCall blog posted by Susan Levand, also showed that three out of four employees have participated in job-related training programs within the last year.

Interestingly, despite the impression of distracted younger employees with smartphone ear buds in their ears as they listen to streaming music, text, and check their social media pages, the younger the employee, the more valuable they perceive training to be. Sixty-nine percent of employees under age 40 claimed that training opportunities are an important factor in their decision to stay with their current company/position or leave versus 59 percent of employees over age 40.

Levand believes that the higher value placed on training by younger employees is not surprising, and I’d have to agree with her. It seems like most young people have grown up with a higher belief in their self-worth and self-value than older people. After all, the joke about Millennials is they were raised to believe that everyone should leave a sporting event with a trophy—that you should get a trophy just for participation. So if you’ve been taught that you have such high value that you deserve a trophy just for showing up, you probably are also going to believe you have a high enough value to warrant a big investment in your development. Older generations may have been content to just “learn as you go” through trial and error, but younger generations probably want a more structured approach to development.

One way to do this on a tight budget is to set structured expectations, and to communicate regularly about performance. There is no cost in dollars and cents to meeting more frequently with employees, and giving them recognition both face-to-face and in public for achievements, while also setting near-term goals. It’s a way to spoon-feed development for a generation that may be used to being spoon-fed in most other aspects of their lives. As a Generation Xer, I can laugh at myself and acknowledge that I’m not so different from the Millennials who would appreciate more communication, recognition, and near-term goal setting. A yearly performance review (or no performance review, as I am currently experiencing), in which general goals and general commentary is provided just to meet Human Resources requirements, is inadequate.

Providing more training and development can begin by having employees’ immediate supervisor meet with them quarterly to highlight specific achievements from the past few months—specific assignments they did a great job on, and specific ways they, personally, boosted the performance of the work group or department. The second portion of the quarterly meeting would be to set clear expectations, and, if possible, clear deadlines for what the manager hopes will be accomplished by that employee, personally, over the next quarter. That may sound like a lot to ask of managers, but it’s not too much if your managers are well organized. It’s only the chaotic, arrogant manager who is unwilling, or unable, to note specific achievements, and specific goals, on a quarterly basis. Are your company’s managers up to this challenge?

With a greater emphasis on development expected by younger employees, trainers and Human Resources executives have to ask themselves whether their company’s managers are prepared to deliver on their end of development responsibilities. The trainer can develop wonderful programs and assessments, but it’s the employees’ managers who are the development gatekeepers. If your managers are too disorganized, negligent, or arrogant to be your partner in developing employees, your training programs will never reach those employees.

How can Learning professionals work with managers to ensure that managers are highlighting development opportunities for employees, and that they encourage their employees to make the most of the learning opportunities L&D creates?