September 13, 2023

How Employee Training is Like Rain — Plus 3 Strategies to Transform Employee Learning

Among a national workforce that is more diverse and dispersed than any time in history, nearly all (94%) of US employees can agree on one thing: They are willing to stay longer with employers willing to invest in their professional development. And right now is a highly opportune time for employers to capitalize on workers’ “loyalty for learning” mindset: Research from Gartner reveals the skill required for a single job is increasing 10% each year.

A nationwide need to boost employees’ skills at the same time employees want to do just that: Sounds like clear skies ahead for training and development, right? Not quite. Additional data shows:

  • 68% of employees prefer to learn or train in the workplace.
  • 58% of employees prefer to learn or train at their own speed.
  • 49% of employees prefer to learn or train when necessary.

So, despite employees’ desire to learn, their learning preferences differ widely. According to Dr. Steve Hunt, Chief Expert for Technology and Work at SAP, those differences make employee training and development similar to rainfall. In a recent Mineral webinar, “Employee Development as a Talent Magnet,” Hunt said workplace training is like rain because “it rarely arrives when we want it; when it does arrive, it’s either too much or not enough; and if it doesn’t land on fertile ground, nothing good can come from it.”

3 strategies to create a culture of learning

Changing the rainy-day forecast, so to speak, requires three strategic shifts in how employers approach employee training, Hunt said. To create a culture that “taps into humans’ innate ability and desire to learn, and makes employees excited about learning,” training must be:

  1. Purposeful. Employees need to understand how what they’re learning will help them accomplish something useful, Hunt said, noting that humans are hard-wired to seek achievement. Training programs that intersect employee purpose and business purpose to tap into that instinctual need will be more successful in helping boost employee learning and the loyalty that seems to accompany it.
  2. Collaborative. People are naturally social beings, Hunt reminds. So, even in a virtual work environment, effective training programs need a “we’re in this together” feel that extends beyond screens. “We want to know that others are caring for us, supporting us, and want us to be successful,” Hunt told the Mineral webinar audience.
  3. Task-oriented. This essentially comes down to helping employees “feel confident they have the resources they need to be successful,” Hunt said, adding that all three strategic elements work together to help people learn.

“It’s about creating the right conditions,” he explained. “We don’t enroll infants in crawling class; they just figure it out” because caregivers create an environment that helps babies feel purposeful, supported, and confident in learning.

Without those three conditions met, Hunt told Mineral’s webinar attendees, employees quickly slide from a growth mindset of “I’m excited to figure this out together,” to a survival mindset of “I’m frustrated and need to get out as soon as possible.”

The one thing managers can do to propel employee learning

Part of learning, however, is failure. Helping employees navigate failure is where managers play a critical role in employee training, Hunt said. Specifically, he explained, managers who receive training and coaching themselves on providing psychological safety is key to training initiatives.

Borrowing Hunt’s infants and crawling example, managers can encourage employees to keep trying and celebrate small victories toward their learning goals, while shielding them from shame or judgment when they inevitably make mistakes while learning something new.

Blog appears courtesy of Mineral.


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