As the job market tightens and businesses demand new skills at an ever-increasing rate, many companies are realizing the importance of training. The 2015 Training Industry Report states that training budgets increased 14.2% over 2014, but here’s the scary part:
It’s not clear that employees are learning more as a result.
Spherion Staffing’s 2016 Emerging Workforce Study found that 45% of employees don’t find corporate training applicable to their daily work and one third did not feel that the training offered would help them earn a promotion. From the front lines, training doesn’t seem to be making the impact that it should.
What do employees want?
According to Skillsoft’s recent research, employees mainly want training to help them get better at their jobs and reach personal goals, which includes promotion. So workplace education needs to make a difference in how people do their jobs today. Or it needs to move someone along a well-defined path of progress. And those paths may be different for every person.
In addition, the research found that a third of employees prefer to learn through experience rather than in a classroom.
What are companies offering?
In contrast, most training is delivered in a classroom or virtual classroom in which students receive material but aren’t practicing it on the job. According to the 2015 Training Industry Report, 46% of training hours were delivered in a traditional classroom and 26.4% were delivered over the computer.
Unless employees are learning how to use computer programs in these classes, they are left on their own to figure out how to use new information to make a difference in their work days or their careers. And they’re not having a lot of success. A 2015 survey by 24×7 Learning found that only 12% of employees reported being able to apply new skills and knowledge from training to their jobs.
The combination of instructor-style training (whether classroom or computer), where one course fits all, and poor support for immediate application or long-term development means that companies have spent a lot of time and money on training, but their teams are still not getting what they need.
Is it time to get practical?
Perhaps throwing more money into more bell-and-whistle-laden technology isn’t the right approach. Expensive learning management systems have not held up to the hype. As reported by Training Magazine, “The average satisfaction score for any of the 17 aspects of the LMS measured in Brandon Hall Group’s latest research never surpasses 3.5 on a 5-point scale.”
Given that people want skills they can apply today and they already have a hard time translating classroom experience to the real-world, perhaps we should focus less on classrooms and videos and more on the workplace.
And that doesn’t mean just putting mini-videos on mobile devices.
- assigning learning goals to daily work
- connecting learners with more experienced people who can coach their efforts
- keeping personalized lists of learning goals that increase an employee’s day-to-day effectiveness and build greater levels of ability over time
Why is the workplace good for learning?
The workplace offers an amazing learning context.
- It provides social interaction which increases learners’ attention and motivation.
- It takes place while work is getting done, so there’s an immediate reward of accomplishment.
- And in the workplace, circumstances change, variables shift, and surprises arise, which gives learners a more robust understanding of the job.
A recent article in the Harvard Business Review, lists three keys to technical training – hands-on experience, accountability, and time to practice skills. These features come free when people are learning while they work, and the principle applies well beyond technical abilities. There are very few managers who will tell you they learned leadership strictly through a classroom.
The cost of the technology needed for this kind of training is about $5.00 for a pen and a notebook.
What’s the real cost?
However, there is a cost in terms of refocusing efforts and revising job roles.
L&D folks will need to
- support managers in identifying learning tasks.
- show experienced employees how to help others learn.
- and ensure follow-up.
Managers will have to give employees some latitude to learn and recognize the team “teachers.” Employees will have to take responsibility for their progress and willingly share expertise with colleagues.
But what about classrooms?
Refocusing your training efforts into the workplace doesn’t mean you have to give up the classroom or video courses you’re already using. Classrooms and videos can provide basic information about a skill before someone tries it in the field.
It’s just important to remember that learning isn’t done until your team can use new information in their jobs. And that takes support on the ground.
If the technology and spending isn’t making a difference to the business, then something’s not working. It’s tempting to point to that new augmented-reality, gamified training system and claim the work is done. After all, people will have a great time playing with it. But when it’s over, they’ll still be left figuring out how to turn fancy technology into something they can use.
At Pract.us, we’re dedicated to giving you the tools for effective learning and tracking its impact on business results. Learn more.