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Knowledge Is Power: A Guide to Improving Employee Training and Development Opportunities

July 27, 2022 Learning and Development
Imogen Sharma
By Imogen Sharma

As the knowledge-based, digital economy empowers consumers and facilitates exponential technological growth, employer responsibilities are shifting. Instilling an agile culture of adaptation and resilience is crucial for the future of business — and the workforce as a whole. Providing engaging, enriching employee training and development opportunities can help attract and retain top performing employees. Not only that, knowledgeable team members are more motivated and hard-working and come across better to clients.

It's not just a one-way street, either. Taking training and development seriously is symbiotic; it's an investment in employees' future. When a team feels like they're being investing in personally, they're more likely to commit to their role in a meaningful way. And when employees are meaningfully engaged at work, magic happens. But there are no quick fixes or magic tricks to implementing an effective learning and development program.

What Is Training and Development?

The importance of providing meaningful, well planned development opportunities can't be overstated in today's economy. People are the lifeblood of organizations, and how they approach each individual hire's tenure impacts business outcomes.

Dedicating time and effort to hiring, development and training processes in the workplace delivers results, as evidenced by the world's top performing employers. Fortune's 2022 list prioritized “employee well-being and places that fostered cultures of inclusion, purpose, listening, caring and empathy.” And what better way to inject purpose and improve well-being than investing in employees' future careers?

Let's kick off by exploring the differences between development and training.

Training vs. Development

Employee training and development usually go hand in hand, but they're distinct learning concepts with different goals and outcomes. For optimal results, employers should approach them separately.

Training programs tend to be:

  • Short-term with specific timelines.
  • Focused on delivering particular skills and knowledge.
  • Directly linked to a team member's current role.
  • Technical and not necessarily customized according to each worker.
  • Precise with clearly defined objectives.

Examples of training courses include communication skills, using Microsoft Excel, management courses for newly promoted employees or CMS training for new marketing recruits.

On the other hand, development initiatives are usually:

  • Long-term, continual processes that foster confidence and ambition.
  • Driven by the personal goals and desired career path of the individual.
  • Focused on developing a person's knowledge, skills and competencies, rather than being directly role related.
  • Designed to move an employee along their desired career path.
  • Customized according to the team member.

Development is a journey of individual discovery for employees, and the best programs are largely self-directed. Encouraging autonomy and promoting individual growth is one of the best ways to inspire loyalty and retain the best performing team members.

Related Article: 6 Learning and Development Practices for a Distributed Workforce

Upskilling vs. Reskilling

In the modern economy, technology is engendering rapid rates of growth and change. According to research from McKinsey, up to 800 million jobs are likely to be automated by 2030. That doesn't mean people are going to be out of work — but it does mean that upskilling and reskilling are fast becoming the norm. The number of skills a single individual needs to master is increasing. And, the World Economic Forum predicts that 50% of the entire workforce will need to be re-skilled by 2025.

It's an employer's responsibility to ensure job roles are streamlined and aligned with business goals, or the business model risks becoming obsolete. So, what are upskilling and reskilling?

  • Upskilling is the provision of training to enhance employees' existing skill sets, so they can continue to add value and grow.
  • Reskilling is effectively training an employee for a new role because a current post is becoming redundant. You'd do this because the individual worker is an asset to the company, and it's more viable to retain them than onboard someone else.

Related Article: Upskill and Reskill for a Better Employee Experience

How Has the Way Employers Approach Skills at Work Changed?

People management has shifted from the human resources approach to the people-centric approach. And the clue is in the name. People aren't just resources, they're unique individuals with diverse backgrounds, needs and goals. Even more importantly — they're one of the company's biggest assets.

What's more, technology has facilitated the mass storage, data, tracking and analysis of people's skill sets. Huge piles of documents, endless filing cabinets and office managers were once required to oversee learning and development. Online training, cloud storage and easy access to training materials have revolutionized the practice. A shift in mindset has come along with these developments. As a result, continuous, personalized training and development is becoming the standard.

Individual and Management Goals of Company Training

Training should never be random. It should be tightly focused on current business goals and imbuing the skills and knowledge necessary for employees to perform. Broadly speaking, it should:

  • Relate to an employee's job description and enhance their expertise or skills relating to their roles and responsibilities.
  • Help employees hit the targets outlined by your organization, and help them meet individual goals.
  • Instill a positive view of your employer brand by showing a willingness to invest in growth and development — thus improving detainment rates.
  • Set the standard and inspire a continuous culture of adaptability and agility within your organization.

Related Article: Top Skills for the Hybrid and Digital Workplace

10 Strategies to Enhance Current Workplace Development and Training Opportunities

Creating customized employee training and development plans for each worker might seem intimidating, but the results are worth it. Whether you're looking to create a plan from scratch or update current practices, the following strategies are game-changing and proven to deliver results.

1. Communicate With Employees

The first step should be a one-on-one interview with each team member. While some experts might recommend laying out business goals first, approaching employees first can be eye-opening. Plus, it can streamline the work of identifying which skills gaps and training requirements are most pressing.

Customization and personalization are two of the biggest buzzwords among up-and-coming Gen Z talent. According to Deloitte, “Gen Z is not a completely different “species” than previous generations that entered the workforce. But its members do approach the workplace in a very different way than did earlier cohorts. To appeal to them will require organizations to truly personalize career experiences (the way we think about personalizing offers we make to customers). Not only will this personalization help to attract this generation and compel them to spend some part of their career in our companies, applying their diverse skill sets to drive customer solutions, but it can also benefit workers across generations, helping to attract and retain talent more broadly.”

2. Align Business Goals With Skills Gaps and Employee Preferences

Is the business underperforming in certain areas? Are there any KPIs that are consistently not being met? Of course, this should be the starting point for assessing skills gaps. Get a clear picture of employees' current skills and the ones an ideal employee would have.

Consider the following areas and ensure employee training and development activities touch on all of them:

  • Motivation: How driven are employees to succeed? How passionate and knowledgeable are they about the company? How can the company inspire positive behavior and mindset change?
  • Skills: What do workers need to know to do an exceptional job? Which KPIs need addressing?
  • Knowledge: What's critical knowledge to the business, and what's considered over and above? What type of content helps each individual improve their knowledge in important areas?

3. Leverage On-the-Job Training

While classroom-style training and e-learning are effective, creating learning moments in day-to-day operations is just as influential. For example, have a star employee whose technical knowledge and passion for the company is exemplary. However, their confidence when it comes to presentations is lacking, which impacts the impression they make on key stakeholders.

Use this as a learning moment, and create a development program that helps them practice and improve this skill. Send them on a training course. Then set up mock presentation sessions in front of a small group of close colleagues and one-on-one training from a manager who excels at presentations.

4. Encourage Peer-to-Peer Feedback

While employees value management input the most, many also enjoy peer-to-peer guidance. Encouraging a culture of P2P feedback is one of the best ways to foster continual development in the workplace.

It's important that managers set the tone for employee-led feedback. Provide documented guidance on how to give constructive criticism and balance it with positive language and complimentary feedback. Give employees real-world examples of delivery and how the process is mutually beneficial.

5. Customize Learning and Development Programs

One of the biggest reasons employees quit a position is a lack of advancement and learning and development opportunities. So, why not make it clear to each employee that the company cares about their individual future and career path?

In today's economy, boosting productivity and retaining top talent requires customized learning and development paths. As resource consuming as this might sound, it's an investment in the future. As all business leaders know, attrition is crushingly expensive. By designing customized L&D programs, companies can reduce employee turnover and focus spending on a loyal, engaged workforce.

6. Focus on Digital

Make learning as convenient as possible by ensuring employees can complete courses on the devices they use most. Flexibility, speed and collaboration are key to upskilling and reskilling the current workforce. With people spending a significant amount of time on social media and playing games, finding training solutions that mirror them reduces resistance.

7. Offer Regular Constructive Feedback

When employers provide learning opportunities but don't provide feedback, doing the work can feel less meaningful for employees. Have a strategic process for delivering regular, balanced and constructive feedback. Incorporate measurable data so employees can accurately gauge performance, feel proud of strengths and address challenges enthusiastically. 

8. Follow Up

Training programs are great, but knowledge only remains fresh for so long. Develop a program for continually testing and refreshing the skills and knowledge employees have learned through L&D initiatives.

9. Share Accountability

Problems can arise when accountability isn't clearly outlined and assigned. Management, trainers and students should share accountability for the best results.

10. Be Consistent, Review Best Practices and Measure Results

Development and training are ongoing, continual processes that need to be prioritized at all times. Build setting, tracking and measuring KPIs into managers' daily, weekly and monthly workflows to ensure initiatives are effective. Keep up with industry trends to ensure business goals and training opportunities are competitive and relevant.

Why Is an Effective Training Program So Important?

Our fast-changing world is the driving force behind the urgency of improving professional development opportunities. While it's employees' responsibility to learn and grow within the company, it's up to the company to raise the bar. The benefits for the business and the workforce are numerous and multifaceted.

Employer Benefits

  • Employees with more skills and enhanced knowledge are more competent and better equipped to hit KPIs.
  • Productivity improves.
  • Employees feel appreciated and valued, which increases retention rates.
  • Employee engagement is significantly improved.
  • Companies promote from within more, which is cheaper, less time-consuming and motivates other employees.
  • As employee training and development climbs to the top of the list of perks employees value most, investing in L&D helps the company remain competitive.

Staff Benefits

  • Employees are primed to go over and above in their job roles, priming them for career progression.
  • Employees are more engaged, which improves satisfaction and boosts morale.
  • Knowledgeable team members are confident team members, and performance and confidence are directly linked.
  • Being productive feels good.
  • Investing in development creates more autonomy for top talent, encouraging employees to take responsibility for decisions where appropriate.
  • Informed employees require less supervision from leaders, encouraging them to take ownership and accountability.

Types of Job Training and Development

There are practically unlimited types of training and development. Let's look at some examples:

  • Technical training, also known as hard skill training, helps employees perform a specific task.
  • Soft skills training involves providing information and guidance about subjects, such as teamwork, communication, creativity, influence, adaptability and emotional intelligence.
  • Compliance training is often a legal requirement related to health and safety, cybersecurity or sexual harassment.
  • Management development focuses on concepts, such as collaboration, accountability, engagement and delivering feedback.
  • Onboarding is one of the most crucial touchpoints of any employee's journey. It sets expectations and provides the information necessary to complete a role effectively.

Methods to Train and Develop a Team

To make learning fun and engaging for a team, aim to mix up the methods used. Also pay attention to which style of learning each employee responds best to and take note. Delivering training in their preferred medium will further improve outcomes.

Popular methods to consider include:

  • In-person or digital instructor-led.
  • E-learning.
  • Micro-learning.
  • Simulation.
  • On-the-job.
  • Coaching.
  • Mentoring.
  • Blended learning.

Improve employee satisfaction and take the organization to the next level by providing relevant, structured education to the team. Ensure opportunities are aligned with future workplace trends and business goals. The results? Engaged, smart employees who are poised to maintain the company's competitive edge as digital transformation takes root.

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