Posted April 17, 2022 by Mark Perna
More than half the workforce says they need more training to perform better in their current roles. How are companies responding? Mark’s article, “Why Learning & Development Is Now A Competitive Differentiator,” published at Forbes.com on April 12, 2022.
Workforce training, always a significant player behind the scenes in a company’s success, is about to have its day in the limelight. According to a new study, employees now see a vibrant learning & development (L&D) culture as a key part of what makes a company a great place to work in 2022—and beyond.
The report, released by TalentLMS, backed by Epignosis, and the Society for Human Resource Management, explores where L&D is headed for 2022 and beyond, as organizations grapple with the talent shortage and skills gap—and employees take training into their own hands.
On the HR side, key findings include:
On the employee side, the study found that:
Clearly, L&D is rising to become more than a program operating in the background of a company. It is a culture—and one that more and more employees are seeking out. “Learning and development training programs are in high demand from employees, becoming one of the top benefits that are being sought after from their current and future employers,” says Christina Gialleli, Director of People Operations at Epignosis.
And it’s headed in a good direction. “L&D training has become a competitive differentiator,” says Gialleli. “In the next five years, it will become more digital, there will be a stronger focus on mental health and diversity training and there will be a rise in technology training.”
Today’s workplace now has four generations—Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X and Baby Boomers—working and learning side by side. This dynamic creates a blend of communication and working styles, thanks partly to the digital forces that helped shape each generation.
“It’s important for companies to create programs and set unique goals for each generation,” says Gialleli. “A new grad will likely be well-versed in Slack, Zoom, Microsoft Teams and social media than older workers.
“On the other hand, a formerly retired worker may be more comfortable with phone calls than younger workers and may have a better grasp on how to handle certain situations and workplace etiquette due to greater experience.”
Different generations have different needs, says Gialleli, and the most effective training will recognize where people already excel so that material is not repeated.
Though the pandemic created emotional challenges for many people, it also normalized mental health needs at work. “From 2020 onward, mental health support at work went from a nice-to-have to a business imperative,” says Gialleli.
Strong life skills go hand-in-hand with strong mental health—which gives companies another angle to proactively address mental health at work. According to the Epignosis survey, 78% of employees find it important that they receive life skills training—syncing nicely with the 77% of HR managers who are planning to offer this training in 2022.
Gialleli notes several soft/life skills that are coming to the forefront in 2022, including:
One of the report’s most revealing findings was that 76% of employees say they’re more likely to stay with a company that offers continuous training. Fifty-five percent say they need additional training to perform better in their roles, and 44% say they are pursuing training on their own because they want to stay competitive in the job market.
This type of self-start learning can benefit the company, as employees who develop new skills can then implement those abilities into their everyday work and offer a new expertise. “This can enhance employees’ opportunities for career advancement within the company, which is what 54% of those surveyed mentioned as the reason behind seeking training outside their company,” says Gialleli.
Of course, such training can also advance a person’s career outside their current company. “Companies need to put their best efforts forward for retention,” Gialleli says. “Having a certain skillset that is sought out after for a specific job or industry is a big advantage for someone when looking for a new job.
“In the age of the Great Resignation, companies must make sure their workers are happy and fulfilled in their current roles.”
Though the majority of surveyed employees were overall satisfied with their company’s training options, a small but critical minority expressed unhappiness with the learning opportunities offered by their organizations. They shared several reasons for their dissatisfaction, saying that the training would be more effective if:
To stay effective, Gialleli urges companies to do more than offer training programs just to check off the box. “Rather, catering to employees’ needs will show them that a company cares and ultimately, create a better workplace experience for all.”
That’s why it’s critical that employers ask and listen to what their employees need—from the type of skills they want to improve to the learning format they prefer—and create programming that fits those needs.
With half of the surveyed employees pursuing learning opportunities outside of their official workplace training, the message to employers is clear: if you don’t offer vibrant L&D, employees will seek it elsewhere.