One trend HR leaders are telling us they're focused on right now is how workplaces can best upskill their employees. Upskilling was a topic of conversation at the recent Forbes Future of Work Summit, where Nickle LaMoreaux, the chief human resources officer at IBM, called out employee training and upskilling as critical tools for companies managing in a tight labor market. And at a gathering of McKinsey analysts and business journalists in New York last week, Katy George, senior partner and chief people officer at McKinsey, said the consultancy was moving toward skills-based credentialing for its employees. This, George said, would empower workers to plot their own career trajectories rather than waiting for HR to step in.
So when learning platform CYPHER Learning recently found major disparities in how employers and employees experience and feel about workplace training, we dug in. According to their survey of 4,000 employees and executives across the US and UK, employees report feeling disconnected from their workplaces and that training is often repetitive, forgettable, and unengaging. More than half of survey respondents (52%) believe that training is a “box-ticking” exercise at their company.
And those aren’t the only issues.
- The distribution of training is uneven and affects older workers most. One in five workers said they haven’t received any workplace training in the past 12 months or longer. Non-training was slightly more common for respondents over 55, with 27% sharing that they hadn’t received any training over the past year.
- And when training is available, it’s often forgettable. Of those employees who were offered and completed training, one third said they’d forgotten what they’d been taught within one month of completing the training, and one third said they felt ill prepared for future skills changes. Given the economic imperative to retain staff right now, these findings are concerning and could end up costing companies more in the long term. The study’s authors write that “hiring managers scramble to fill the skills gaps and back-fill departing employees by paying a premium in consulting and recruitment fees.”
📋 The data point
Executives get more flexibility on training than entry level or intermediate employees, creating a major disparity. The vast majority of business owners and C-level execs (88%) said they had choices about when, where, and how they undertook training. This flexibility is important, yet it isn’t being offered equitably. Just 37% of entry-level employees had the same options related to the timing, location, and means of training. According to the study’s authors: “The higher employees climb the corporate ladder, there’s more opportunity for tailored, personalized training.” Unsurprisingly, executives were almost three times more likely to call training “enjoyable” than employees were.
Make your training sessions more engaging overall.
Part of many workers’ dissatisfaction reflects a broad reliance on asynchronous and recorded materials in modern training, which can leave workers to train in isolation. Data that technology provider FOUNT Global shared with Charter shows that companies that overly rely on digital tools like learning portals for teaching new information may be missing the mark. According to FOUNT’s employee experience benchmark data, workers at enterprises with 10,000+ global employees said human touchpoints–including interactions with colleagues, coaches, and managers–were much more likely to positively influence employee learning, either through formal training or on-the-job learning.
Upskill and reskill in ways that match how employees want to be developed.
Some 41% of workers surveyed by CYPHER Learning said they wanted more training tailored to their jobs, and 33% said they wanted training that was more personalized to their needs. To that end, encourage your Learning and Development team to ask employees through a listening tour or a pulse survey what meaningful training looks like to them. This information can help identify more creative and effective use of training budgets.
Some questions to ask include:
What do they imagine that personalized and impactful sessions might include?
What types of training could they benefit from that are currently limited to certain leaders?
Consider the “shelf life” of skills you want to offer.
As IBM has written, there is a wide range in practical uses between perishable skills with a half-life that is less than 2.5 years and more durable skills with a half-life of 7.5 years or more. As the skills required for many of today’s jobs are changing rapidly, it is well worth considering the speed, or semi-permanence, that your organization is optimizing for in skills development.
Offer more hybrid options for training.
More than one-third of respondents in the CYPHER Learning study said some training is too structured and that they can’t do it at their own pace. For a look at alternative options, including cohort-based learning and self-paced and transparent career paths, see Offbeat’s new L&D trends map.
“Reskilling is not a singular event or moment, but an entire shift in culture,” S. Mitra Kalita wrote in a recent column for Charter about the ongoing need to help workers expand their skillsets. Tying those skills to real-world scenarios is vital, managing editor Cari Romm Nazeer wrote, and can start during the hiring process.
For more about designing L&D programs that recognize that all people have something to learn and something to teach, regardless of their professional level, download Charter and Medley’s intergenerational fluency playbook.
- Executives get more flexibility on training than entry level or intermediate employees, creating a major disparity. The vast majority of business owners and C-level execs (88%) said they had choices about when, where, and how they undertook training.
- The distribution of training is uneven. One in five workers said they haven’t received any workplace training in the past 12 months or longer.
- And when training is available, it’s often forgettable. Of those employees who were offered and completed training, one third said they’d forgotten what they’d been taught within one month of completing the training, and one third said they felt ill prepared for future skills changes.