- A survey of 1,000 employers and 1,000 employees from group coaching company Terawatt suggested that employers are far more likely to view their company's professional development offerings as valuable and useful. Employees rated learning programs "neutrally," while employers said they were "very successful," the report showed.
- Terawatt found employees want a wide range of programs, with the highest demand for additional training for specific work/job responsibilities (17.7%), tuition reimbursement for courses or higher education (15.5%) and soft skills training (13.3%).
- Women and some people of color rated programs lower and reported having a less clear sense of what was available to them.
There could be a few different reasons for the discrepancy between employers and employees' view of professional development resources.
In some cases, it's possible employees simply don't realize all the professional development programs available to them. If those opportunities remain closed in an employee handbook that is rarely accessed or in brochures that stay shut in the HR office — or if they are primarily spread through word of mouth — there may be a communication issue.
"Sometimes when there's so much information, it gets lost," Francie Jain, CEO of Terawatt, told HR Dive. "It just becomes noise, and [employees] don't realize what's there." She recommended checking in with employees to remind them of their professional development options.
In the case of women reporting less clarity around what's available, this issue likely speaks to a greater problem related to "mini-me syndrome," or the tendency of leaders to select for mentorship and support individuals with similar identity characteristics. Potentially as a result, consulting firm Vaya Group recently found that women and people of color have less representation in leadership development programs.
"If you're a person of color, you don't necessarily have the automatic collegiality with some of the higher ups," Jain said, expanding on a conversation she had recently with Pooja Jain-Link, executive vice president at Coqual, and Sherika Ekpo, chief diversity and inclusion officer of Anaplan, during a webinar at the HR Tech conference. "Professional development is a really important resource for leveling the playing field."
The discrepancy also speaks to the individual goals of workers — a reality reflected in the range of programs employees reported needing or wanting. While some might benefit most from soft skills workshops, others might need specific training in a particular aspect of their job, and still others might want to take an outside course to develop professionally.
To combat dissatisfaction with learning options, Terawatt recommended employers offer professional development programs in which employees have greater choice in how to use their learning opportunities rather than a fixed curriculum.