Report: Managers and Team Leaders Get Most Training Opportunities

Individual and high-potential workers get fewer chances to reskill or upskill

Kathy Gurchiek By Kathy Gurchiek March 31, 2021
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Randstad skill report

​Developing employees' skills helps an organization remain competitive, but training is offered most often to managers and team leaders, according to a new Randstad RiseSmart global survey. Individual and high-potential employees receive fewer opportunities to develop their skills, and organizational leaders are given the fewest opportunities to reskill and upskill.

Training for so-called soft skills, such as adaptability, communication and problem-solving, was employers' top choice for employee learning and development (L&D). These are transferrable, lasting skills that give employees the ability to lead and work cross-functionally, the report pointed out.

Tech skills were the second most encouraged area of learning. In fact, a 2021 World Economic Forum report noted that the top 10 skills in 2025 will involve problem-solving, self-management, collaboration, and the use and development of technology.

The Randstad RiseSmart report is based on findings from a survey conducted during the fourth quarter of 2020 with 1,099 HR professionals and 1,142 employees across 20 industries in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany, India, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States. Respondents were asked to indicate all training scenarios that applied at their organization.

According to Randstad:

  • 65 percent of organizations were more likely to provide skills training to team leaders and managers.
  • 44 percent were more likely to provide training to individual contributors and high-potential employees.
  • 42 percent were more likely to provide training to leadership.

Global Differences in Employee Training

Australia: 57% of organizations are most likely to offer training to high-potential employees. Communication (32%), adaptability (28%) and collaboration (26%) are the top skills they want their employees to develop in 2021.


European Union and the United Kingdom: 51% of organizations are most likely to offer training to individual contributors. Communication (36%), adaptability (36%) and collaboration (27%) are the top skills they want their employees to develop in 2021.


India: 77% of organizations are most likely to offer training to everyone. Artificial intelligence (65%), adaptability (32%) and creativity (31%) are the top skills they want their employees to develop in 2021.


U.S. and Canada: 73% of organizations are most likely to offer training to managers and team leaders. Communication (31%), adaptability (30%) and problem-solving (29%) are the top skills they want their employees to develop in 2021.


Source: Skilling Today, Randstad RiseSmart, 2021.

Training availability also differed between industries. More than three-fourths of those in health care and life science, for example, said they offer training to all employees. Financial services firms were more likely to require training for middle managers, followed by education, manufacturing, and chemical and utility organizations.

The most preferred modes of training overall:

  • On-the-job experiences, project teams and stretch assignments. On-the-job training was most popular among small companies and organizations in manufacturing, chemical and utilities.
  • Company universities. Internal L&D programs were most popular with employers in software, electronics and information technology.
  • Third-party providers such as LinkedIn, Udemy and Coursera, as well as stipends for self-directed learning. Tech employers were more likely to offer stipends.
Training preference may rest, in part, on an organization's employee demographics. Workers at some organizations may lack experience with self-directed learning or have limited or no access to computers. The best use of time also is a consideration; on-the-job training on the floor of a manufacturing site may be a more productive use of employee time than sitting in front of a computer to learn or improve a skill.

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Internal Mobility

In recent years, organizations have announced a financial commitment to develop their employees. Amazon said in 2019 it would retrain 100,000 workers by 2025—a $700 million initiative amounting to an investment of $7,000 per employee. That same year, PwC committed to a $3 billion investment in digital training.

Events such as the COVID-19 pandemic reveal the importance of employees improving their skills and learning new ones so employers not only can meet evolving business demands, but also support the career transitions of employees impacted by workforce changes, according to Lindsay Witcher, Randstad RiseSmart's vice president of global practice strategy and solutions.

Forty-three percent of workers who responded to the survey said they learned new skills to advance in their current role and to stay relevant; 30 percent said they wanted to advance internally rather than land a job elsewhere.

"By adopting a more democratized approach to training and development, including providing reskilling and upskilling opportunities to all team members throughout their employment journey, employers will uncover untapped skills across their workforce," Witcher said in a news statement about the report released in March. "This will lead to increased internal mobility and help support the long-term employability of individuals as the world of work continues to evolve and they move on to new opportunities."

Internal mobility is more of a priority now than before the pandemic hit, according to LinkedIn's fifth annual Workplace Learning Report. Internal candidates made up a greater share of hires between April and August 2020 than in April through August 2020 (19.6 percent and 16.5 percent and 19.6 percent, respectively).

For employers, there is a benefit to hiring internally: Companies with internal mobility had an almost two-year longer retention rate, LinkedIn found. A 2019 study by Josh Bersin found that recruiting a midcareer software engineer can cost $30,000 or more, but training and reskilling an internal employee can cost $20,000 or less.  

What Employers Can Do

"Because of the pandemic and the radical changes that it caused to the workplace and to business in general, soft skills were the ones that were put to the test," observed Thanos Papangelis, CEO and co-founder at Epignosis, an e-learning solutions provider based in Greece. "The new era of distance revealed employees' lack of communication skills and magnified the underlying collaboration issues within teams."

He shared the following tips for implementing an L&D program now:

Focus on digital upskilling. "The pandemic has ignited investments in technology, with more jobs and tasks being automated. The population of working robots has boomed, once useful skills are now obsolete, and new in-demand skills are rising. In light of these developments, companies should pivot their L&D programs to match the new needs. Initiatives for developing a digital-ready workforce and digital upskilling should be an imperative right now."

Conduct a skills gap analysis. "[This will] reveal the current landscape of skills and knowledge of your employees and will outline a road map for evolving them in the desired direction. What's more, skills gap analysis is also helpful for post-training evaluation. It'll reveal the learning curve of building a new skill for an employee."

LinkedIn reported that, increasingly, L&D professionals are measuring the impact of their training.

"Given that many organizations had fully remote workforces or were managing the new territory of a hybrid workforce, staying close to employee sentiment and needs was more critical this year than ever before," the report noted. They are doing this through employee engagement surveys, learner satisfaction scores, and metrics taken before and after training on tasks such as closing deals and customer satisfaction. 

Papangelis noted that the days are long gone when improving productivity was the single goal of training.

"Today, successful training initiatives play a role in motivating and engaging employees, attracting and retaining talent, and building employer brand. Alongside helping in achieving business goals, training is crucial in boosting employee satisfaction," he said. "The impact of training is today expanding from improving employee productivity to elevating company culture and also serving as a talent magnet."

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