In today's talent market, employees are looking for real-time development, continuous feedback and open dialogue. Businesses are looking to accommodate workers but may struggle to keep pace with what employees want and what they can deliver.
The challenge for employers is to create development programming that addresses immediate needs without overwhelming employees. When it comes to feedback, supervisors must find the balance between needed critique and a time consuming deluge of comments.
Learning as a cultural imperative
Employees may want training, may even need it, but don't ask for it for fear of looking incompetent, research from Sitel revealed. Tasked with upskilling employees, L&D must create a culture of learning that makes development a positive experience, perhaps even an expectation for all employees.
To do so, business must start with a "foundation of trust through positivity and social recognition," Niamh Graham, vice president of global HR at Workhuman, told HR Dive in an email. More than being aware of resources available to them, employees should be encouraged and even recognized for accessing learning.
To further a company's learning goals, a culture of knowledge sharing must be cultivated alongside individual willingness to learn. This begins with a trusted relationship with employers and peers; when employees are secure in their value today and tomorrow, they are more likely to access learning and share knowledge. For business to promote this culture, Graham suggested making learning a fundamental part of the business. Promote it widely — on screen savers, TVs and internal communications. Focus on positive outcomes, she said: "Send email reminders, have friendly/fun competition, gamifying it."
At any time, from anywhere — especially at work
While it's often easier to provide learning to employees stationed at a desk or office, employees working in the field have said they want more training and feedback, a survey from CGS revealed in early 2018. The rise of online learning has made that easier, but often employees worry their remote access means learning has to happen off the clock. Accessing learning when needed — rather than when convenient — is a major trend largely enabled by new learning tech.
Feedback is part of this. Staffers are no longer satisfied with the annual review, and neither are employers. At play is determining the cadence of feedback that works for each team.
"To truly engage employees in a way that won't overload them, a culture of constructive, helpful, and enabling feedback is necessary," Graham suggested. "This starts at the top of the organization."
Build feedback trust
She recommended having ongoing check-ins and conversations to help build trust. Employees, managers and team leaders can initiate discussions to stay in sync and ensure the discussion is engaging and not overwhelming. "Foster a forward-looking growth mindset by emphasizing feedback that is in-the-moment, informal, and frequent," she said.
Each employee will have different needs at different stages of their careers. Training supervisors to recognize when employees need more hands-on feedback and when check-ins are more appropriate may be the key to satisfying employee and employer need.
Positive communication is key
Open lines of communication are also in demand in the workplace; employees expect to be in the loop. Working toward common goals is more easily achieved when everyone is on the same path.
"Think of positivity as a protective foundation wherein constructive feedback can become a learning opportunity," Graham said, and that can be a two-way street. "In a culture of positivity and trust, employees feel safer giving and receiving feedback from colleagues or managers, and even reaching out to ask for it."
Don't sacrifice communication to tech
While employers may be focused on upskilling employees' tech capabilities, it's important to remember human connections are just as critical to growth. Rather than focusing exclusively on tech knowledge, leverage the tech that's available to create chat rooms, open forums and other resources that allow employees to communicate from and to all levels.
Whether they're remote workers in another hemisphere, part-timers who don't often connect with upper management or others, communication ushers in collaboration.
"Bringing everyone together on one journey with one mission with one set of aligned values and behaviors means positive outcomes for all," Graham said.