Time to Flip Training on Its Head?

How companies can move away from a top-down training model.

Companies spend a large amount of money on employee training each year—working with outside sources, bringing in training experts, sending employees to far-off locations to train remotely, paying for formal learning management systems—the options are endless, but the costs are significant.

In fact, in 2015, spending on outside products and services skyrocketed 29 percent from $6.1 billion to $8 billion, while other training expenditures (i.e., travel, facilities, equipment) more than doubled to $28.7 billion, according to Training magazine’s 2015 Training Industry Report.

However, the Center for Creative Leadership has found that 70 percent of workplace learning comes from real life, on-the-job experiences, compared to only 10 percent of learning from formal, structured training. So why are companies willing to spend billions on learning management systems?

Making matters worse are the expensive training programs that are primarily top-down and do not capture the valuable knowledge and skills of employees in a way that can be easily shared peer-to-peer.

Companies need to take a closer look at their training programs and reevaluate the processes they have in place. Our recent survey of full-time employees at large companies found that two out of five employees have never seen their company training change or improve. This is alarming and unacceptable.

So what can companies do to modernize training tools and move away from traditional top-down training programs?

Talk to Your Employees

Although 98 percent of employees receive some form of training, many are not receiving it in the style they find most efficient and most effective. According to our survey, nearly half of employees (49 percent) prefer to be trained in person, and 37 percent prefer to be trained via online training tools—but that does not mean these preferences are being taken into account by their employers.

The first step employers can take in modernizing their training tools is talking to their employees about how they prefer to learn and be trained. This could be as simple as an e-mail survey or a more in-depth approach such as one-on-one meetings between employees and training managers. Another option is to discuss training preferences during new hire onboarding, so you can learn each employee’s preference from the start. Although it may be overwhelming, and time consuming to customize training programs to each individual’s preference, by talking to their employees, companies can determine the most preferred method and work to leverage it.

Ditch the Manuals and PowerPoints

After talking to their employees, companies may recognize a consistent desire to ditch traditional training manuals and PowerPoint presentations. When employees have a question, they don’t want to flip through a printed manual or scroll through a PowerPoint presentation — especially if there is no guarantee the material is up to date. Fortunately, less than 15 percent of employees still receive training through video, PowerPoint presentations, or documentation and guidebooks, but that percentage is still too high. Throw away the manuals and delete the PowerPoint files—it’s time to embrace current technology and improved training programs.

Embrace User-Generated Content

So what will flip training on its head? According to recent research, it’s user-generated content. Gone are the days when user-generated content was a term only heard in marketing departments or ad agencies. User-generated content is all around us—social media being the strongest example. So why is it not being leveraged in the training industry? Companies need to leverage the knowledge and skills their employees have by incorporating user-generated content into their training programs.

Nearly all employees (95 percent) feel they have a skill set or area of expertise that is valuable to their company in terms of productivity and best practices, but companies are not capturing this knowledge. In fact, 58 percent of employees are not even provided tools to generate their own educational content to train colleagues. This is a missed opportunity.

Almost half (47 percent) of employees agree they could create better employee training content themselves compared to the training their employer creates. By allowing employees to create their own training content (a.k.a., user-generated content), you are not only empowering your employees but also ensuring that training material stays up to date. Additionally, you can be confident that the information is correct—because who better to learn from than an employee who executes specific tasks each day?

Today’s top-down approach to training is not effective at capturing and transferring knowledge among peers. We live in an age of user-generated content—but how much of this cultural instinct is being utilized within the network of professionals in any given company? It’s time companies embrace a new approach to training and flip traditional learning management systems on their heads.

Kader Garnier-Aw is the chief operating officer of SpeachMe. Prior to joining the SpeachMe team, he was a director at PwC. After serving as an Army Officer, Garnier-Aw started his career at Johnson & Johnson in the UK. From a health-care compliance officer, he worked his way up in J&J to regional director for Asia-Pacific, member of the Research & Development Senior Leadership team.

 

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