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Workers Across Generations Dissatisfied with Employer Training

A group of people working on a laptop with personal security training on the screen.

​Professional development is important for job seekers and employees, according to a new survey, but a vast majority of them say employers are not meeting their training expectations. That dissatisfaction is shared across generations.

Among the 2,042 U.S. workers surveyed online, 1,054 of whom were employed when the survey was conducted between Oct. 28 and Nov. 1, only slightly more than one-third (39 percent) said their employer is helping them improve their skills or gain new ones. That's a sentiment expressed by 50 percent of Millennials, 37 percent of members of Generation Z, 33 percent of members of Generation X and 31 percent of Baby Boomers, according to Harris Poll for the American Staffing Association (ASA).

"Training and career development are not core competencies within most organizations," explained Richard Wahlquist, ASA president and CEO. "Many organizations don't know where to begin when launching new employee development programs. Others have experienced low levels of employee utilization of training opportunities in the past."

"For employers looking for an edge in 2022, investing in training and development could make the difference in competing in the war for talent," Wahlquist said in a statement announcing the findings on Jan. 20.

The ASA's survey found that among respondents who were employed, 84 percent of Millennials view an employer's professional development and training offerings as important considerations when accepting a new job; 79 percent of Baby Boomers and members of Generation X shared that sentiment, as did 70 percent of members of Generation Z.

"Employees are looking for professional development training that can help future-proof careers or will help them transition to new employment pathways," Wahlquist told SHRM Online.

Worries that automation will eliminate their jobs are fueling some of that interest in training, ASA found. Nearly half (49 percent) of Hispanic/Latino employees said they are worried about automation, as did 35 percent of Black workers and 33 percent of Caucasian workers. While that fear also cuts across generations, it's most prevalent among Millennial workers (52 percent).

Workers are looking to employers for the training they need to elevate their careers, Wahlquist noted.

"In the COVID era," he warned, "employers will not retain employees who don't see a pathway to career development and advancement in their current job."

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Developing Employees]

The desire for training ranks high among the 15,066 U.S. workers Gallup surveyed in October 2021 for Amazon. The findings released in the American Upskilling Study: Empowering Workers for the Jobs of Tomorrow found that 61 percent of workers said the opportunity to learn new skills was an important reason to stay with an employer; 48 percent would consider switching employers to gain training. Additionally, 65 percent said employer-provided upskilling is very important when evaluating a potential new job.

A report, How the Workforce Learns, released in October from upskilling platform Degreed, noted that "too many learning and development (L&D) teams think of learning culture as offering formal training, creating content and measuring completions." Instead, they "need to shift focus onto creating the conditions for continuous learning." According to the report, that includes providing:

  • Guidance on what and how to learn—goal setting, finding the right resources and obtaining manager support. Train managers on how to create development plans with their teams so the focus goes beyond formal reviews and promotions.
In its report, Degreed recommends managers encourage their team members to document short- and long-term goals that focus on individual tasks and tactical work, emphasizing skills rather than role-based development. Managers also could check in with team members on their progress and recommend development opportunities or learning resources.
  • Diverse and active development experiences.
"People need independent, structured, collaborative and experiential learning opportunities," according to Degreed's report.
  • Feedback on employees' progress and discussions of their strengths and challenges. Offer tools that provide skill reviews, skill ratings and informal assessments.
  • Opportunities to practice, apply and stretch skills. This could include being paired with a mentor or coach, working on a temporary project or assignment on another team, or transferring to another team within the same function.
Also, "consider hosting quarterly team meetings dedicated to learning a new skill," Degreed suggested, "or building a reward system that recognizes individuals who are frequently and efficiently offering feedback to their peers."


​An organization run by AI is not a futuristic concept. Such technology is already a part of many workplaces and will continue to shape the labor market and HR. Here's how employers and employees can successfully manage generative AI and other AI-powered systems.