Regardless of whether you’re calling it the Great Resignation, the Great Reshuffle, Quiet Quitting or something else entirely, the gradual workforce shift underway is putting a spotlight on something employers have long known: Providing workers with job and career development opportunities is critical to employee satisfaction and, as a result, employee retention.
Organizations are responding by putting significant funding toward learning and development (L&D). Training Magazine data shows average training budgets in 2021 ranged from $341,505 for small companies to $17.5 million for large companies. What’s more, one-third (32%) of companies surveyed by the publication said they increased their training budget that year (up 9% from the year before), compared to 21% who lowered their investment (down from 26% who said they reduced their budgets in 2020).
Several factors drove the increase in L&D spending:
- Increasing the scope of their training programs
- Purchasing new technologies/equipment
- Adding training staff
- Serving more learners
And those investments are yielding some positive results. New data from Emergn, a global digital business services firm, confirms training can be a powerful retention tool. More than half (55%) of employee respondents to Emergn’s survey, “The Pursuit of Effective Workplace Training,” said L&D programs increased their job satisfaction and morale. And 75% of employees said strong workplace training would heavily influence their retention.
Yet the data also shows that many training programs aren’t doing enough to create a return on investment for the organizations that offer them. That’s because the programs often aren’t set up with specific business goals in mind.
L&D programs are meant to give individual participants an opportunity to enhance their skills. But they shouldn’t stop there. Instead, the programs also should build a culture of strategic learning that teaches participants skills that will improve the organization’s bottom line — and helps learners see the value of that learning to the organization’s success.
L&D programs have good intentions but weaker relevance, data shows
Emergn’s survey, “The Pursuit of Effective Workplace Training,” uncovered several challenges facing L&D programs. Although the funds, commitment and training programs are available, the findings show that they are not creating the results employees expect and companies need:
- Training could be more effective. Although employees indicated they appreciated the training, only 23% of learners and 22% of leaders said their organization’s current workplace training was extremely effective.
- Leaders gave workplace training higher marks than learners. Only 50% of learners said their workplace training was very effective compared to 59% of leaders who said so. Leaders also were more likely than learners to recognize productivity improvement, ability to adapt to new technology and job satisfaction.
- Lack of time and connection impeded training effectiveness. The majority of respondents (65%) felt they did not have enough time for learning and development or that it was not relevant to their role. Only 35% of leaders said workplace training was completely connected to the team’s goals.
“HR leaders want to show how workplace training benefits employers, but many of today’s programs have two failings,” said Steven Angelo-Eadie, Head of Learning Services at Emergn. “The training programs don’t clearly connect to business strategies and the current ways of measuring training success don’t accurately identify ROI.”
How to connect L&D with business strategies
Employers can develop training programs that enrich employees and support the organization’s bottom line by aligning learning opportunities with key business goals.
L&D leaders should be at the forefront of this effort. They can help organizations connect strategic business goals with the skills needed to achieve them and then identify where and how to fill the skills gaps they uncover in that process.
Additionally, by providing employee training programs that address an organization’s strategic needs, L&D leaders can enable employees to apply their learning immediately and directly. Doing so increases the relevancy of the training, helps employees feel more proficient and speeds up the benefits of the training to the business.
A better way to measure success with L&D
Leaders often rely on surveys and qualitative assessments to determine whether an investment in training was worthwhile. These measures are helpful, but L&D leaders must do more in today’s data-driven environment. They need to demonstrate not only whether the training worked but also what specific benefits it delivered.
That analysis is more easily done when the training offered is tailored to impact a specific business outcome — and when the related outcomes are considered as the training program is being developed.
For example, say a company wants to increase production volume for an important product line. Its production and L&D leaders collectively identify a skills gap slowing down production. As a result, they decide to implement a training program to address the gap. An analysis of whether the related training worked could compare the number of products developed before and after employees engage in the learning opportunity.
“Organizations need to do more than encourage learning for learning’s sake. They must create a culture of strategic learning, where the training programs benefit employees while also meeting the business needs in measurable ways,” said Angelo-Eadie.
Build a strategic learning culture
Emergn’s research highlights the need for companies to be even more thoughtful in their employee development plans and L&D can play a pivotal role. To learn more about how Emergn can support your organization’s L&D initiatives, visit Emergn.com, where you can also download our complete survey findings on workplace training.