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Adapt Training Methods to Needs of Today's Workforce

A man and woman working on a machine in a factory.

​Training that is relevant, easy to understand and available 24/7 is important to employees, according to a study of 1,089 full-time and part-time U.S. workers. However, organizations struggle with providing the kind of formal training that their employees want and need in order to be more effective in their jobs, said Carol Leaman, president and CEO of Axonify Inc. Based in Waterloo, Ontario, in Canada, the company specializes in providing employee-learning platforms.

"Far too few organizations offer training programs that are actually designed to help employees build knowledge and translate that knowledge to performance," she said in a news release. "It's time for companies to wake up and adopt modern, intuitive and engaging training methodologies that meet the needs of today's workforce." 

Among the findings from online interviews conducted in September for Axonify:

  • 90 percent of respondents said it is important that training is easy to complete and understand.

  • 87 percent said it is important to have access to training information anytime and anywhere they need it in order to do their jobs; 51 percent said this is very important.  

  • 85 percent said it is important that training is engaging and fun; 39 percent said this is very important.

  • 85 percent said training that is personalized and relevant to them is important; 42 percent said personalized training is extremely important. 

  • 30 percent said they received no formal training on the job.

Learning management systems (LMSs) were revolutionary when they were introduced nearly two decades ago, Leaman told SHRM Online, because they were a way to efficiently provide information to widely dispersed employees. But the systems haven't kept up with the expectations of today's workforce.

"Employees are looking for information specific to them," and they expect employers to give them the training and information they need to be top employees, she explained. "They don't want to waste their time" sitting in a classroom with others whose knowledge levels and needs are different from their own.

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Developing Employees]

They also want information that is engaging. Gamification is one approach, Leaman acknowledged, but it's more important that the learning approach mimics how employees use technology in their private lives.

For example, some people find online card games fun and relaxing even though the games are fast-paced. That kind of approach "can be really effective [in driving] voluntary engagement" to learning, she said.

Additionally, a LMS has no way to track and measure what people know or don't know or to tie that measurement to a business outcome in a way that is appealing and engaging to employees, Leaman said.

Decide on Business Objectives

Millennials understand the need for continuous skills development to remain employable. A recent ManpowerGroup survey of 19,000 employed Millennials across 25 countries found that 93 percent of them want lifelong learning opportunities and are willing to spend their own time and money to get them. Additionally, 4 out of 5 said that the opportunity to learn new skills is a top factor when considering a new job, according to the report, Millennials Careers: 2020 Vision, that was based on findings from the September survey.

They see their success as depending more on having the right skills than the right connections. 

"[Millennials] know they need to upskill regularly to stay employable over longer working lives," noted Mara Swan, executive vice president of global strategy and talent and global brand lead for Right Management, in the report.

"Investing in training and creating ways to learn on the job and move around the organization is a sure way to make companies more attractive places to work."

Leaman advised HR professionals looking for effective employee training to step back and reflect on the business outcomes they want to achieve. She suggested they ask themselves what the strategic imperatives are for the corporate mission over the next one to five years and what employees need to know in order to achieve those outcomes.

"Really focus the content and training around that," she said. The "nice to know" skills can follow later. "What [organizations] tend to do is try to firehose everything at once" during training.

"Do your research and incorporate game science, gamification, microlearning. You can create an experience that employees seek voluntarily," she said. "Start small and you can evolve [training] from there. Strip out the stuff that doesn't matter and focus on the things that do matter." 

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