They Want More!
Several aspects of today’s workplace are somewhat unrecognizable when compared to the average office from only a few decades ago. Expectations of employee accessibility, connectivity, productivity, and results all have been catapulted forward. Our roles, communication methods, and required skills have altered significantly, too. Some jobs are disappearing altogether before our eyes. Technology, of course, has been the No. 1 transformative factor in this evolution. It also has demanded the need for a better approach to workplace training.
More than ever, employees are craving a forward-looking, proactive, dynamic culture of learning. Outdated and often inefficient employee development formats (such as PowerPoints and lectures) quickly are becoming irrelevant. According to a recent survey conducted by Cerego, 77 percent of employees report a desire to receive more training within their workplace. The study was conducted with 554 external employees voluntarily participating via a thirdparty tool.
Fortunately, technology now is being implemented to employees’ advantage— making smarter, intuitive training options available at their fingertips. The question is, are companies using the unprecedented new availability of data and tools to truly up the ante within their training programs? According to the research, there remains room for improvement.
Training Begets More Training
Are employees receiving training already? In many cases, yes. The amount of training, though, depends on the specific company, management team, and industry at hand. Companies acknowledge training is important, but we found training frequency and consistency vary dramatically. More than 30 percent of respondents only received trainings once annually, while another 15 percent participated in trainings once every six months. Some companies offer more regular opportunities—nearly 30 percent have training sessions once per quarter, while another 20 percent reported training every month.
While the amount of training fluctuated, one finding remained consistent across those surveyed: No matter how often they received on-the-job education currently, we found that at least 7 out of every 10 employees wanted more training opportunities. The study also revealed that the more people receive training in the workplace, the more training they want. A whopping 80 percent of employees who receive training on a monthly basis still crave more, proving employees recognize the importance of training in order to effectively do their jobs.
Age Isn’t a Factor
What’s causing this increased demand for learning and development? Some may speculate Millennial employees are behind the knowledge-seeking movement. After all, Millennials have become the largest generation in the American labor force, according to Pew Research Center, and Gallup notes that 87 percent of them report that professional training and growth is of high importance to them.
However, our findings revealed no generational gap in those who desire more training—Gen Xers and Baby Boomers are seeking more on-the-job learning, too.
Why Employees Want More Training Opportunities
One likely factor causing workers to seek further professional development is the growing need to keep pace with technology in the office. The future of work is rapidly approaching, and many employees face either a requirement of working alongside automation, chatbots, and other forms of artificial intelligence (AI), or worse, the technology is threatening to replace their role altogether. According to the American Psychological Association, 43 percent of employed Americans say they are concerned about the changing nature of work.
In truth, some roles that can be automated may be eliminated, but experts also predict AI and robotics will create millions of new jobs. The issue employees in the labor force will face, though, is adapting their skill sets to meet new demands the new AI-supporting roles will bring. The World Economic Forum’s most recent report on the future of jobs found the potential for new technological expansion in many industries will be halted by “multi-dimensional skill gaps” across the labor markets. Needless to say, as the workplace of the future inches closer each year, employee training will become more essential than ever.
The Key Elements of Effective Training
Whether your employees are being trained once per year or on a monthly basis, ultimately, the program must be effective. The data demonstrate that employees are seeking more learning opportunities, regardless of the amount already received. Consider whether your current training program is making the cut, or if you should consider revamping it to better meet the needs of your employees. A few key elements are important to audit as you gauge a program’s effectiveness:
- Content and format: How is the information being presented? Is the training led by a manager or specialist who has a high-level understanding of the subject matter? Can employees interact with the material being presented? Interaction is key, and trainings should never feature a one-sided approach. Is a solution being implemented to measure and track employee progress?
- Flexibility: When is training being delivered? It’s important to allocate time specifically to training, during which employees can focus without being distracted by their work projects and other competing priorities. Can they access continued learning opportunities on their own time after work? We’ve proven that many employees are actually more successful with training and knowledge retention when review exercises are completed during non-work hours. Our survey also found that 56 percent of employees who desire more training are willing to stay after hours for such opportunities.
- Review and retention: Cognitive science research dictates that certain training approaches work more effectively than others. For instance, distributed learning is essential to success—i.e., spacing out learning over time rather than one long lecture-style format. Next, is the information reviewed over time? Employees require opportunities to actively attempt to recall previously studied material. Repetition is key.
- Communication: Speak directly with your employees regarding their preferences and needs when it comes to training. What format do they think works best to help them learn? Do they feel empowered to devote time to learning and development on the job? Which trainings resonated best with them and were well-retained—and which came up short?
Iain Harlow is the vice president of Science at Cerego, where he leads the growing data science and research team, and guides the development of an effective, science-driven learning platform. Some of his responsibilities include conducting peer-reviewed research and efficacy studies, presenting at international conferences, and developing new ways to help learners, resulting in multiple patent applications.