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Need Employees with Up-to-Date Skills? Use Up-to-Date Training

A group of people sitting on the floor with laptops.

Getting employees to make time for learning and development (L&D) is challenging for L&D professionals, according to a new report from LinkedIn.

One reason may be the way in which training is provided.

The primary training strategy used is in-person classroom training, according to 78 percent of 500 L&D professionals from the U.S. and Canada who were surveyed by e-mail in October 2016. However, today's employees want more modern formats for learning, LinkedIn found, citing the following profile of the modern learner:

  • 52 percent of employees want L&D to be available when they need it—not when someone tells them they should have it.
  • 47 percent want L&D to be accessible in the evenings and on weekends.
  • 42 percent want to be able to access L&D from their office desk.
  • 30 percent want to be alerted to updates in L&D information.
  • 27 percent want L&D to be accessible when they are traveling to and from work.

In fact, 67 percent of people use their mobile devices as a learning tool, but only 12 percent of corporate learning is mobile-enabled, according to Elucidat, a learning technology company in Brighton, Sussex, the United Kingdom.

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Developing Employees]

The 2017 Learning Index Report 5 Workplace Learning Trends and 5 Predictions for 2017 from Udemy for Business—a provider of online instruction with offices in the U.S., Turkey and Ireland—also noted the need for a more modern L&D approach.

"Today's workforce increasingly demands next-gen learning that's engaging, personalized, mobile and immersive. It's no longer about L&D creating formal training courses, but blending a range of formal and informal learning experiences such as in-person training, mobile online learning, social discussion forums or even virtual reality," according to the Learning Index Report.

The problem is that organizations are still trying to reach today's learners with yesterday's tactics, observed Tanya Staples, senior director of content and production at LinkedIn Learning.

"With the influx of technology, people today are embracing digital tools to access content that helps them learn on the job and on the go, but organizations are still heavily investing in the in-person classroom-style training," she said in an e-mail interview with SHRM Online.

"That said, new models are emerging as a critical complement to in-person training: 7 out of 10 organizations reported that they are now incorporating video-based online training."

There's also the challenge of shifting the employee mindset toward continuous learning, the LinkedIn report found. The average shelf life of skills that college graduates acquire during college is only five years, according to research the Harvard Business Review conducted in conjunction with Deloitte.  

"As a society, we must figure out how to rapidly reskill [a] vast number of people on an ongoing basis to both remain relevant globally and to avoid long periods of high unemployment," according to the Harvard Business Review.

Other findings in the LinkedIn report:

  • The main objective of L&D is to develop managers and leaders, according to 51 percent of respondents from small organizations (1,000 or fewer employees) and 58 percent of respondents from large organizations (more than 1,000 employees).

For small organizations, helping employees develop technical skills is the second-most important L&D objective. For large organizations, it's supporting employees' career development.

"Small companies tend to have flatter structures," Staples explained. "A higher proportion of employees at small companies are responsible for executing work, which often requires technical acumen."

Larger organizations, she added, have more midlevel managers and team leaders who are depended on to "guide the flow of information from the decision-makers to those on the front lines."

  • Coaching and leadership communication tied as the top people management skills for which HR provides training (51 percent).

Staples defined leadership communication as being able to engage and inspire teams and organizations and clearly communicate the vision, values, and strategy of the organization across all departments, teams and cultures.

  • A limited L&D budget and getting employees to make time for L&D are the top two challenges to demonstrating return on investment (ROI) (at 49 percent and 46 percent, respectively).

"The ROI of learning is not a simple science," Staples pointed out, "so it's crucial for L&D leaders to provide metrics that will resonate with their leaders," such as noting the cost associated with attrition.

What HR Can Do

"Too many training dollars are misspent because they do not address the right skills at the right time," Todd Dewett, Ph.D., said in an e-mail to SHRM Online. The author, speaker, former Wright State University professor of management, and president of a management consultancy in Houston, contributed to the LinkedIn report released Feb. 7.

An audit is one way to ascertain the organization's skill needs and employees' skill gaps.

Staples noted that it was "crucial that L&D professionals stop playing the role of service provider and work more like consultants, partnering with leaders and managers to identify and address the learning needs of their organizations."

Make the switch by using data that is "learner- and business-focused," asking questions to identify current and ideal training needs, piloting first drafts of L&D strategies, seeking critical feedback, and adjusting those strategies until the data show that the desired results were achieved, the LinkedIn report noted.

Other recommendations:

  • Deliver modern learning experiences to meet the expectations of modern learners. Such experiences can incorporate in-person and online instruction and hands-on application.
  • Develop a tightly executed communication plan.
  • Report the value of L&D to the individual who is receiving it and to business leaders.
  • Build a culture of learning that rewards growth. A key component, the report said, is ensuring managers know how to coach employees effectively.


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