Reigniting Excitement About Workplace Learning

If organizations allowed employees to choose the topics of most of their learning hours, instead of requiring specific trainings, workforce learning engagement and enthusiasm could hit all-time highs.

Employees say they are more open to workplace learning, but their feelings about it are on the decline.

Despite more than 7-in-10 (73 percent) employees claiming they are willing to participate in both company-offered and external learning and development programs, 1-in-4 employees (26 percent) say they have not been enrolled or attended any training in the last year, according to NTUC LearningHub’s State of Workplace Learning (SWL) Report 2022. They attribute it to the lack of time (52 percent) and heavy workload (45 percent), the report notes. The SWL Report is a continuation of the Workforce Learning in Workplace Transformation Report 2021, which “aims to uncover the dual perspective on the role of managers in employee learning and the current and desired states of workplace learning.”

Employees also are less inclined to say their organization offers relevant training for employees, as compared to last year. Only 78 percent of employees say their organization offers relevant training in 2022, a drop from 2021’s survey findings, in which 85 percent shared the same sentiment. The main reasons for employees’ view toward training relevancy include boring and conventional approach towards training (31 percent), and a limited range of topics covered (23 percent).

Searching for Relevance

Drawing from my own experience, one reason may be relevancy to daily challenges. The typical employee in a large organization receives multiple “mandatory” training directives throughout the year, much of it compliance-based. There are also directives to complete “goal-setting” and “self-assessments” for performance reviews. With so much that is mandatory, and so little that relates to daily work-life needs, it’s no wonder that sentiments about learning have decreased.

One solution is to think about the real-life challenges employees face in their work life. For example, difficult personalities in co-workers and customers is a huge area of struggle for many employees. I recently learned about a book, “The Four Tendencies” by Gretchen Rubin, which provides information about how people differ in how they respond to the expectations of others. This is just one of many books in the category of personality typing that offer much more valuable and interesting information to employees than what they are exposed to in mandatory training.

I’m reminded of how I approached college. Many of my friends forced themselves to take courses that did not interest them, such as macro- and micro-economics. I took the courses I didn’t have a choice about to graduate, including “core curriculum” classes, and those related to my major. However, the rest of the time I took only classes that genuinely interested me. That meant anthropology, psychology, history, and political science classes, for example. I never took one economics or business course in all of college because business was of no interest to me. As a result of my approach, I never skipped class and never felt so bored in class that I felt like I was falling asleep. I was engaged, and still remember many of the things I learned almost 30 years later.

Turning to Learning “Electives”

What if you decreased the number of specifically required courses and increased the number of “electives”? You could have a total number of learning hours required by each employee, but the vast majority of it could be of their choosing. If you offer courses on topics such as personality typing and managing difficult people, you may find learning engagement and enthusiasm at all-time highs. You could take it one step further and not require any learning hours beyond the courses you don’t have a choice about for legal reasons, such as compliance. The rest of your learning offerings could be icing on the cake in which employees get to choose among topics they are passionate about. You could give a reward at the end of the year to the 20 (or more, depending on organization size) employees who completed the greatest number of overall learning hours.

Quarterly, managers could have employees who complete company-provided courses give a brief presentation to colleagues on the key points of the course and how those points relate to the work they do every day.

When employees have courses to choose from that truly interest them, and they are asked to share the exciting things they learn with co-workers, you will find that “sentiments” about learning start trending upward. Choice and relevancy go a long way to making corporate learning something to look forward to rather than try to avoid.

How do you make the learning you provide appealing to your employees, so they have positive feelings about it?