The way we live and work has changed exponentially. As society adapts to rapid advancements in technology and changes in the way we work, work-based learning has become more important than ever before; it’s one of our most powerful tools for ensuring employees can keep up with the pace of change.
Encouragingly, most UK organizations understand that staff development and the need for constant upskilling is critical to both business growth and productivity. However, it’s concerning that research conducted by Kineo – the specialist digital learning arm of City & Guilds Group – found a marked divide between the training needs of employees and what’s provided by their employers.
Our study found that the disconnect stems largely from two areas: boredom and access. More than two thirds (69%) of UK employees surveyed said that the training they are offered is not always exciting or engaging, while 80% admitted they had trouble accessing learning and development (L&D) activity in their workplace. This feels like a significant wasted opportunity, especially given that the appetite is there: 79% of employees want their employer to put a greater focus on L&D.
Promisingly, our research found that employers are making concerted efforts to upskill their workforce for the future, with 80% of employees saying that their organization has taken steps to improve their skills and employability. But our research also revealed that current L&D investment and provision may not be hitting the mark. Just 13% of employees in the UK would rate the L&D opportunities provided by their employer over the past year as very effective – reflected in the fact that only a fifth feel very well-equipped to do their job to the best possible standard.
When asked what they found most effective when it comes to training, employees emphasized that having more engaging and exciting content is needed. And they also called for more personalized, better-quality programs and shorter, micro-style learning.
Before investing in L&D activity, it clearly makes sense for employers to first check that their staff has the time to learn and consider how they’d like to access training. For instance, our research revealed that nearly a third (30%) of UK employees say e-learning and online courses would increase their participation in L&D activity. Understanding what training employees are able and keen to undertake is critical if the money spent is to have any long-term benefit.
And it’s also important to be flexible – there’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to work-placed learning, any more than there’s a ‘one-size-fits-all’ job. Taking a flexible approach is key, offering training on employees’ own terms, that fits around their schedules, preferences, and goals.
Just as technology has revolutionized our personal lives to make everything more accessible and convenient, we need the same to happen within work. Harnessing tools and technologies that enable a better experience for L&D means employees can learn on their own terms and feel more empowered and excited to do so. A time-poor workforce can still enjoy bitesize learning modules via a phone or tablet in between meetings, commuting, or on the shop floor – and immediately apply learnings while on the job.
Even if you think your organization has a great learning and development program, it’s crucial to keep asking your workers what they think, to get a sense of whether or not it’s working. Worryingly, 42% of UK employees say they aren’t asked for feedback during workplace training, and 21% aren’t even asked after training. With change pretty much a constant, it is essential that employers gather as much information as possible direct from their key stakeholders, i.e. their employees, to ensure that corporate learning is fit for purpose.
As the UK navigates an increasingly disruptive and uncertain socio-political period, it’s never been more important to have a skilled workforce that’s fighting fit and prepared for the future. The time has come for employers to sit up and take note of how, where, when and what their staff learns most effectively and efficiently.
It’s only by homing in on exactly what employees want – and setting those desires against business goals – that we can successfully build and execute training programs that provide a real return on investment. And only when that’s achieved will employers be able to reap the full benefits of having a productive, motivated and engaged workforce.
About the author: John Yates, Group Director for Corporate Learning, City & Guilds Group.