Employers know that training and development is a key tool for retaining (and recruiting) talent and making sure their workforce is ready to meet whatever the future holds. That doesn’t mean it’s easy! Jeff Samek is Employers Council’s Manager of Learning and Development. Jeff is on the front lines of employee training challenges and passionate about innovative learning and development solutions.
Here are seven roadblocks that Jeff said can keep HR professionals and other business leaders from truly transformational training.
1. Finding time for their own training.
“The real renaissance that the workplace is having is making veteran HR people feel like they need upskilling,” Jeff said, “so they can help upskill their own people.”
Feeling a little behind the game isn’t uncommon in the HR industry. According to HRDive, a full 73 percent of human resources leaders say they “don’t have the tools and resources needed to do their job well.”1 Prioritizing the HR or training team’s own learning & development is the workplace equivalent of the put-your-own-oxygen-mask-on-first airplane rule.
“It’s important for those people to not only find their own professional development opportunities but to…be a voice inside your organization to help those who aren’t HR people understand the business need for why certain [training] pieces are now necessary,” Jeff said.
2. Understanding generational differences in training needs and styles.
“You have to be connected to the culture of the people,” said Jeff. “You have to understand generational needs. Gen Z [employees]…are very different and are very differently equipped. Their skill sets are different because they are very digitally based.”
The youngest employees entering your workforce—Gen Z—grew up on the Internet and using social media. They don’t just consume digital content, they create it (and the lines between creation and consumption may be blurred). 59 percent say that YouTube is their favorite way to learn!2 There are distinctions and overlaps between all generations; both Gen Z and Baby Boomers value face-to-face communication more than Gen Xers and Millennials, for example.3 It’s important for professional educators to know the generational makeup of their workforce and how it impacts learning.
3. Diversifying how training is delivered.
“It’s not about you, it’s about them and giving [them] options,” said Jeff. “[Including] diversifying what you train on, diversifying ways people can access that training, letting people do training in different ways.”
Not only do workplaces reflect a great diversity in learning styles, but today’s offices are often hybrid. Learning looks different depending on whether your employees are remote, on-site or a combination of both. For many hybrid employees, their in-person versus online learning preferences might change on a daily basis. Flex schedules also create logistical challenges: the days of expecting everyone to show up to an all-day development session are essentially over.
4. Managing an ongoing employee feedback loop.
All this diversity—and constant change—demands strong communication between learners and the team designing or outsourcing training and development. You can’t know what your employees need if you don’t ask…and then ask again…and again. If you want to enable learning, you have to do your research.
“Enabling, to me, is being a curious person,” said Jeff. “It’s asking front line people who are doing the work: What will help you do better? And then designing and iterating with agility [in a way that] incorporates their voice in every part.”
5. Creating (or outsourcing) compelling content.
Expectations for content are sky high, and not only because your youngest employees are extra savvy online storytellers. Employees of all ages have a plethora of attention-demanding content at the ready—on multiple screens. This is the reality of today’s training and development world: There’s always something else to pay attention to. Jeff said this helps explain the training industry’s recent shift from more administrative Learning Management Systems (LMS) to LXPs: Learning Experience Platforms.
“A learning experience platform is more immersive, more gamified,” explained Jeff. “You’re competing with eyeballs. Every day [employees] wake up and they are on Instagram, Facebook, whatever they are on. The training they require has to be delivered in a completely different way, and it needs to emphasize totally different things.”
6. Fighting the fear that you’ll train too well.
One common but often unspoken challenge employers need to overcome is the worry that they’ll train their workforce right out of their own doors.
“I think it’s fear-based,” said Jeff. “If they have someone who is great in a position, they don’t want them to move out of that job. It’s a control thing in a way.”
In contrast, Jeff emphasizes the need for transference in training: If the organization is providing training that is exclusively focused on their own organization, it is less likely to be engaging. But transferrable training that is applicable in a variety of settings is more compelling. Train out to train in, Jeff said.
“When that person doesn’t see themselves in the training or if it doesn’t resonate with them or move them, then it’s not really going to stick,” said Jeff. “And it’s not going to retain them. If you can exude…confidence—We value you and we’re investing in you. Anywhere you go, this [training] will be valuable to you—That keeps somebody there.”
7. Moving from a compliance mindset to an engagement mindset.
“Compliance is a thing of the past,” said Jeff. “People want to be heard and seen more. People don’t just say, ‘OK.’ It’s much less an authoritative space.”
From tight labor markets to a cultural emphasis on personal autonomy and freedom, there are many reasons why an authoritarian approach to training and development is out of style. Training efforts are more likely to succeed if they are designed to guide employees along a learning path—infused with plenty of choices along the way—rather than force them to check off must-do boxes.
“People…are interested in engaging with [the] organization and feeling valued. That kind of value proposition is very different, and that’s a challenge. It’s almost like you’re becoming more of a journey master than a compliance master.”
Jeff says HR professionals are tasked with reimagining training and development for the fast-approaching future. It’s a difficult but ultimately rewarding process.
“It’s seeing the human as an important piece of capital in the business,” said Jeff. “It’s nurturing that human capital the same way you would nurture the bottom line, a service line or technology. How do you nourish them? How do you feed that person [so they] continue to grow?”
LEARN MORE about Employers Council’s training opportunities.
- “Survey: Almost all HR pros are burned out — and many are thinking of leaving.” HRDive.com. 22 April 2022. Accessed 29 August, 2022.
- “Teaching the Next Generation: How Gen Z Learns,” Chalk.com. 23 March 2022. Accessed 29 August, 2022.
- “The Evolution of Communication Across Generations,” online.ndm.edu. 6 February 2019. Accessed 29 August, 2022.