Corporate Learning for the New Generation of Employees


June 01, 2018 - Dom Barnard

The new generation of employees expect training to be readily available and accessible, just like most of the other information in their lives, available anywhere, anytime, on any device.

In this article, we discuss how to build an appropriate business case for learning and development within your organisation, that leads to increased employee impact and engagement, as well as being cost effective.

Drivers for change

There are clear reasons to create robust development programmes for the new generation of employees:

  • Fill a skills shortage for roles within your business
  • Build future talent and competent leaders
  • Change the organisational focus and vision

Investing in employee training might be considered part of a corporate social responsibility activity. However many organisations are identifying it as a key business need for sustained growth in the future.

Importance of training and development for employees

Employee training is an important part of job satisfaction. A survey conducted by PWC of over 3,500 participants found the following:

Participants were asked what they value most over the next five years. The most important benefits for the millennials related to training and development activity.

  • Almost one third of respondents chose training and development as their first choice benefit other than salary.
  • This was three times higher than those who chose cash bonuses as their first choice benefit.

In terms of development, 98% of the sample stated working with strong coaches and mentors was important to their personal development. The least important was e learning, but even e learning was cited to be very important or quite important by 62% of the sample.

However in many sectors, training and development budgets are usually the first to be reduced when the business is doing badly.

Training and development is the most important job benefit for millennials.

For millennials, training and development is the most important job benefit, with over 20% putting it as the number one job benefit. Source: KPMG

Aligning learning strategy with business strategy

Talent is often one of the most valuable parts of an organisation. Maintaining and growing this talent has become an important part of organisational strategy to stay ahead of the competition.

By aligning learning and development strategies with business objectives, organisations have been able to outperform their competition in the long run.

This has enabled the development of programs that:

  • Rationalize spending on learning and optimize the use of resources
  • Streamline and outsource operations and simplify the technology landscape
  • Focus on the learning programs that offer the best return on investment
  • Contribute to shaping skills and behaviours that reflect the company’s strategic direction

Organisations first need to identify any issues with their current training strategy and how they can update this to better align with business objectives and drives. This can be done by reviewing their current learning methods, strategies and course catalogues (both in-person and online).

Changes to the business, such as acquisitions, expansion and regulation, provide an opportunity to align the learning strategy across the whole business, to ensure the company vision is consistent and focussing on the right areas.

In addition, building out a suitable business case and clear development timeline will help achieve a greater investment impact and buy-in of senior leaders.

How to get buy in from your organisation

These points are taken from the CIPD developing the next generation report.

  • Gain senior sponsorship and a figure-head who can really drive the importance of recruiting and developing young people in the organisation. Create a narrative which outlines the business benefits and use line manager champions to share success stories.
  • Get clear on your business drivers and check that they are consistent across the organisation – make sure business leaders are in it for the right reasons.
  • Find a good partner who can meet the needs of your organisation and help you establish and set up programmes.
  • Think about your broader HR policies and how conducive they are to recruiting and developing young people, for example questioning your requirements for particular academic qualifications or ensuring you have the right line manager capability in place.
  • Make sure you’re prepared for high demand from the business – the benefits of investing in young people are so apparent that the biggest challenge is often the need to expand programmes at pace.

Optimizing operations and enhancing ROI

While many organizations already spend millions of dollars on training, most lack any significant insight into how exactly this investment is spent or what results it delivers.

This may be because the traditional L&D department is not treated in the same way as other parts of the business, with regard to leadership, goals and objectives.

Only 49 percent of organizations have a senior leader running the training function and fewer than 45 percent have a written business plan for learning, let alone one that has been aligned with the organization’s broader objectives.

Learning is often taken on by each department or team. Rarely will there be a central department responsible of training the whole organisation, causing a lack of organisational strategy and alignment to business objectives, as well as little quantitative data about its effectiveness.

When learning transformation does occur, successful ones have focused on:

  • Transitioning decentralized learning operations to a shared operating model
  • Developing common processes
  • Setting up standard services for technology
  • Content management and authoring tools

The success or otherwise of these changes often depends to a high degree on improving visibility into how L&D funding is spent. Research shows that most companies underestimate their spending by a factor of two to three, as a result of uncoordinated and duplicated programs across different department.

Efforts aimed at identifying and rationalizing L&D spending often uncover opportunities for improvement with minimal extra investment, or savings with minimal losses in the effectiveness of existing programs.

Developing a standardized approach toward L&D measurement and evaluation is the best way for a business to see how their training budget is being spent and to measure the ROI of these kinds of programs.

Understanding the next generation of employees

Organisations need to have an awareness of how the next generation of employees prefer to learn. Evidence has shown that they prefer practical, experiential learning, with the right support in place (which may include mentors, coaches and online resources).

Training and development in a lobby around a presentation.

Employees want a way to practice traditional formal learning and theory, whether that be through tools such as virtual reality, or on the job projects. Many will be digitally proficient and use technology regularly in everyday life, so they expect their training solutions to be as intuitive and easy to use as other tools they use regularly.

Moving from a “push” to a “pull” learning model

Training programs have historically been “push” based, with content distributed to employees in lectures or classes based on the training department’s schedule, and success typically measured by employee attendance rates.

However today’s employees expect training to be readily accessible and available whenever they need it. They want to acquire skills on demand, not wait several weeks to attend a classroom based training session. This training applies to both hard and soft skills.

A survey by Deloitte Development uncovered the following:

  • 75% of the workforce will be made up of Millennials by 2025, and 45% say they get no leadership development at all
  • 45% of North American survey respondents think their current skills will be inadequate in three years
  • 59% of global survey respondents think their companies are not giving them opportunities to develop

The “pull” model takes these new expectations into account. L&D is seen as a continuous process and training is provided to the employee when they need it. This works well considering employees are now willing to take the time to improve their knowledge and share their expertise in order to stay ahead of learning trends and other employees.

Millennials crave knowledge. They’re used to having information at their fingertips, and thrive off processing it. In short, if they’re not learning, they’re not developing. And if they’re not developing, then they’re going to start looking for a way out.

Companies need to prioritise learning and, more importantly, upgrade how it happens. Millennials don’t want formal lectures or a bunch of data hitting them in the face all at once.

Source: KPMG - Meet the Millennials

Today, L&D leaders and professionals must come to view themselves as “learning experience designers”. They need to study their employees’ learning experiences and use the information to create all-encompassing, end-to-end experiences.

The result of this is a learning program that is highly engaging for employees, because it allows them to find the learning they need rather than looking elsewhere, or even changing jobs, if they cannot.

An organization’s ability to adapt to this new style of learning is dependent upon many factors, including:

  • Existing perceptions of L&D
  • Existing programs
  • Existing resources allocated

So it is unsurprising that many organizations struggle with the transition.

Other organizations, however, are seizing the opportunity to promote new learning cultures and extract more value from their L&D activities; these agile first movers are adopting new mindsets, and fundamentally rethinking the meanings of L&D in the context of their businesses.

This process has seen people placed at the core of an employee-centric architecture and vision that treats learning not as a series of episodic events, but as one continuous process, the responsibility for which is spread throughout a company.

Employees access training when and where they need it

Employees expect their training to be as accessible and user friendly as other smartphone apps. The emphasis on user experience and functionality of mainstream apps has not yet caught on with professional development experiences.

However companies have been slow to react to the opportunities the digital age has created and insist on getting their employees to use outdated learning management systems, even when they have alternatives in the palm of their hands.

The accessibility of mobile phones have reduce the barrier to learning, allowing almost anyone learn a topic from anywhere in the world at low cost.

The last few years have seen huge growth in the number of learning solutions:

  • Personal coaching
  • MOOCs
  • Digital learning tools
  • Video offerings
  • Virtual reality training
  • Cloud-based training systems

Employees expect their L&D to be standardised, easy to use, intuitive and for all training material to be included into a single platform so they can access it quickly and on demand. This enables them to perform their job more effectively and helps them build their career.

Corporate training presentation skills with VR

Virtual reality being used to practice presentation skills.

It’s important to create solutions which integrate social capabilities into the training content, so users keep engaged and interact with other users to solve any problems more quickly. Learning will move from a siloed experience to interactive learning where users are free to learn the most relevant topics at that time.

Conclusion

Current trends present a unique opportunity for companies to rebuild their learning and development programs toward the new generations of employees, providing them with more desirable skillsets that better meet the needs of businesses.

Looking ahead, technology will continue to streamline the delivery of learning and development programs, creating a more enjoyable experience for the employee at reduced cost to the employer.

Organisations that are able to innovate by combining these new platforms with a strong understanding of their own strategic objectives are likely to see improvements in ROI, as well as in the engagement and retention of their workforce.

Organisations have experienced substantial benefits from investing in developing people at the start of their careers. The impact they have on the organisation is substantial, both culturally and at the bottom line.