Effective learning and development programs are the key to creating an engaged workforce. In the current job market, attracting the right employees is job number one, and for high-growth companies the future requires a fresh look at employee development programs. Retaining and engaging the workforce, according to a recent survey, hinges on a new kind of competitive thrust: an emphasis innovative training methods, particularly for leadership training.
“Competitive advantage in the future of work will no doubt increasingly be defined by talent,” said Ian Fanton, senior vice president and head of Harvard Business Publishing Corporate Learning (co-authors of the survey, entitled How the Workforce Learns).
Fanton continues, “Our research shows that L&D has an important opportunity to impact future growth by aligning critical capabilities to business strategies and providing highly engaging, learner-centric development experiences.” Over 55% of employees consider career growth and opportunity more important than salary, according to Forbes. For employers looking to make an impact for individuals, concentrating on learning as currency is a valuable way to keep employees happy. Unfortunately, this ground-breaking survey shows that 47% of participants are dissatisfied with their employer’s learning and development programs. Why?
The Customized Classroom: Emphasizing the Individual
Because it’s the experience that matters, according to the study conducted by educational platform, Degreed, and Harvard Business Publishing Corporate Learning. “Experience” doesn’t mean the career experience required to obtain a particular position or promotion – it’s the experience of greater employee development, focused learning and skills concentration designed for a more competitive workforce. The kind of leadership training that’s most in demand? According to Forbes, experiential, peer-to-peer engagements – with a self-directed component – can help employees to understand concepts like ownership, collaboration and teamwork at a deeper level.
The survey ties dissatisfaction directly to the method of delivery: traditional classroom teaching, without an emphasis on application, transfer and real-world impact, was a source of frustration. In contrast, businesses that emphasize more sophisticated forms of adult education and executive interaction tend to have healthier, more productive cultures, with a workforce that’s more adaptable and engaged. Do you know why?
Because knowing all the rules of boxing isn’t necessarily going to help you when you’re about to get punched in the face. In other words: studying a game isn’t the same as playing it. Collaboration as a concept is very different than collaboration in action. Business doesn’t happen in a classroom – you have to “get in the ring” if you want to be a true champion.
Skills-based training is important, but enhancing the leadership and life skills of employees is where the real value lies. Why? “Because our research shows that today’s workforce is concerned about their future, and thrives in an environment that teaches skills that lead to rewarding, life-long careers,” according to Chris McCarthy, CEO at Degreed.
School Is NOT in Session
That’s why the new emphasis for high-growth businesses is on experiential learning – not just brokering knowledge. Today, information is everywhere. Memorizing all 676 pages of Steve Jobs’ biography isn’t going to turn anybody into the reincarnation of Steve Jobs (of course). But a tailored leadership training designed to bring insights into the mind of the great Steve Jobs might help people find their own path to innovation, impact and market domination.
What is the experience that you are creating for your employees? Over 61% of respondents wanted individualized training – training that addressed their specific skill gaps. So, why are we still delivering adult education and training like an elementary school, spraying and praying that learning makes a difference? Sure, it’s convenient to treat every 11-year-old as if they have the same skill level, maturity and aptitude. But that approach isn’t necessarily accurate, or effective. And for adult education and training, it’s deadly. Using fifth-grade strategies for a grown-up workforce isn’t going to build employee engagement and retention.
Information Is Everywhere – Yet, True Leadership Is Still Rare
When will companies realize that there’s a more sophisticated solution? Learning is currency, especially in a tight job market. If employers don’t tap into a new kind of experiential learning, smart employees will find that kind of career cultivation somewhere else.
For HR professionals, executive leaders and founders, you’ve got to ask some hard questions about how you are providing education and development, as part of the employee’s journey. Consider your approach to leadership training: Is your method merely instructive…or inspiring? Are you teaching patterns…or helping leaders to pave their own paths? Are you tapping into innovation on an individual basis…or just teaching the same stuff, blasting the masses and hoping for the best?
For companies focused on retention, emphasizing training alone won’t get you where you need to be. The leadership development experience is what really matters – and yesterday’s methods aren’t going to bring you tomorrow’s results.
The views of the author of this article do not necessarily represent the views of Gradifi. We make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained here. Readers should consult their own attorneys or other tax or financial advisors to understand the tax, financial and legal consequences of any strategies mentioned in this article.