In an era of deep talent gaps, the need to train has never been greater. And new tech that promises to make workers more productive — if they only had the time to learn to use it — compounds the problem. Employers are feeling the squeeze from all sides and looking for solutions.
Internal training is critical for upskilling current employees and bringing newcomers up to speed. For many employees, however, critical training just isn’t being offered. In its State of Workplace Training Study, Axonify found almost one-third (31%) of employees were offered no formal training in 2016; 43% who received training found it to be ineffective.
Employers are looking for measurable learning outcomes. But new research may be confirming what employees have been saying forever: One-and-done training doesn’t produce results. The traditional classroom-style session may be an excellent means to deliver information to groups, but may not be the best way to educate groups.
JD Dillon, principal learning strategist for Axonify, believes it takes a lot more than a single event to change a person’s behavior. “This is both common sense and hard science,” Dillon told HR Dive. “While a training activity, such as a classroom session or eLearning module, may be quick and can grab someone’s attention for a moment, additional support is required to transform new knowledge into sustained behavior and performance.”
He suggests spacing out learning sessions to help employees remember what they’ve learned. Also, retrieval practice, recalling information repeatedly, deepens knowledge and supports long-term behavior change for employees. ”These activities,” he suggests, “should be embedded continuously into an organization’s learning strategy to lessen their reliance on event-based training.”
What do employees want?
The classroom style approach may work for young learners, but adults learn differently. Research points to experiential learning as the most effective. In essence: hands-on training that applies directly to the work being performed is retained, while last week’s conference is largely forgotten. In their survey, Axonify found employees want:
93% want training that is easy to complete/understand;
91% want training that is personalized and relevant; and
90% want training that is engaging and fun.
Considering the nature of long, classroom-style training sessions, few likely meet those criteria. And follow-up is unlikely.
“Employees need consistent opportunities to build on the skills, knowledge, and behaviors they have learned after training is over,” Koreen Pagano, corporate product management director for D2L, told HR Dive. She recommends two ways to help employees retain knowledge: set up automatic releases of related content post-training and provide a space for collaborative work and knowledge sharing.
Along with the type of content and delivery, employees want certain access. For example,:
89% want training anytime/anywhere they need to do their job;
85% want to be able to choose training times that fit their schedule; and
80% believe frequent/regular training is more important than formal workplace training.
Dillon says the results illustrate why “it’s so important to enable employees to take advantage of the right-fit learning opportunity for their moment of need and to design content to solve very specific, measurable problems.”
Training the five-generation workforce
But within those general findings, there are individual needs. For example, learning professionals are looking at ways to address the preferences of a multi-generational workforce. First, throw out the stereotypes and look at the variety of skill sets to determine your training offerings. A seasoned employee will likely need less background information than a new hire, while a completely new protocol or procedure will require deep learning for all. The challenge is to create learning opportunities for each level of competence.
“For organizations, the lesson here is to find the right mix of learning, taking a blended approach, based on not only generational preferences but job role and level,” Pagano says. Organizations that consider this range and find ways to deliver ongoing opportunities for short and long form training in a range of offerings, such as video, informal conversations and bite-size training content “will support greater learner engagement and skill retention.”
A focus on knowledge retention
Of all the aspects of learning, knowledge retention may be the most important — and classroom-style training may be missing the mark. One study revealed that 45% of employees spend at minimum 15 minutes per week looking up information that was taught in a company training session. The Forgetting Curve suggests how quickly we lose information without repetition and reinforcement:
within one hour people will forget 50% of the information presented;
within 24 hours people will forget 70% of the information presented; and
within one week people will forget 90% of the information presented.
The one-and-done classroom session may provide a wealth of information, but if that information isn’t retained, it’s of very little use to employees or the business. It’s becoming clear that business needs to provide the type of just-in-time training employees want to get them the information they need.
Pagano recommends three approaches. First, make learning employee-specific. “Contextual learning boosts learner retention and provides a much higher degree of value and relevancy,” she says.
Next, offer learning in bite-sized content form that’s easily accessible via mobile or online. This helps employees leverage training at the point of need, as well as “personalized, self-paced learning, which is a major plus for time-crunched employees.”
Finally provide opportunities to share expertise. Employees are the subject matter experts. She believes you can reinforce training by “allowing colleagues to connect informally, capture and share expertise, and collaborate.”
Whether you’re onboarding new hires, upskilling current employees or training the newly transferred, the amount of energy and resources you put into the training should provide a good return on investment. With the wealth of options, from short-burst learning to MOOCs, apprenticeships to remote sessions, there are more learning options available today than ever.