There are many challenges facing human resource managers today. Between the difficulties, they face recruiting during what is being dubbed the “Great Resignation,” managing the tail end of the pandemic, and the changing workforce demographics, it can be a struggle to find the time and resources to focus on employee training and development.
However, employee training can bring many benefits to your company and can be a key tool to help you attract new talent and retain existing employees.
The benefits of employee training
The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) carried out a survey between January and February 2022 that included:
- 1,001 US workers who received training during the last 12 months from their employer
- 356 US-based HR managers who oversee or are involved in the Learning & Development (L&D) initiatives in their organizations
- They published the survey results as part of SHRM’s 2022 Workplace Learning & Development Trends Report. 
This report found that just over three-quarters of employees (76%) were more likely to stay with a company if it offered the opportunity for continuous training.
And HR managers are well aware of the power of having an effective training program in place. A whopping 86% of HR managers surveyed believe that training helps achieve higher employee retention, and 83% think it’s a valuable tool for recruiting new talent.
Encouraging employees to grow and develop within your company shows that you are committed to their success. This can help you create a stronger team that will likely stick around, improving retention rates and attracting high-quality candidates.
Training becomes more critical when it comes to attracting younger candidates, as Generation Z workers favour organizations where they feel they can develop their skills and grow.
As the SHRM Workplace Learning & Development Trends Report found, employee training only pays out when it’s done right, and there are many challenges to delivering effective employee training.
The challenges of offering quality employee training
Despite its importance in recruiting and ensuring that organizations can make the most of the talent they already have in their current workforce, there are still many barriers to delivering quality employee training.
Here are some of the key constraints reported in the survey that stand in the way of offering the best training to employees:
- Budget constraints and priority setting. Over half the HR managers surveyed (52%) reported that they encountered resistance when it came to gaining approval for their L&D budget proposals. This isn’t surprising when 54% of them said that their leadership does not view training as an investment. This means that it can be challenging to get the support they need for L&D among the long list of initiatives their leadership is already juggling that need to split the same resources. For perspective, spending on L&D programs tends to fall somewhere between $501 and $3,000 per employee, with only 15% of companies reporting a spend of between $3,001 and $5,000 per head.
- Time constraints. Just like funding, time is always in short supply, and this is especially true for busy HR professionals. A third (33%) of those surveyed said that this was one of their top barriers to delivering quality employee training.
Time constraints are not only a barrier for HR to provide the training they would like, but it’s also a barrier for employees to attend them, as a quarter of them reported simply not having enough time at work to complete the training programs offered.
Relevant content. A third of HR managers (32%) reported that they struggled to keep the training content current with so many changes taking place in the workplace. Of course, this is closely linked to the previous two points, as keeping content relevant for optimal learning requires both time and resources.
Lack of motivation. A third of employees (33%) cited that they simply did not have the motivation they needed to complete the training, with one-quarter of employees reporting that they forgot what they learned shortly after it was taught.
Despite these challenges when delivering and participating in training programs, surprisingly, a massive 75% of employees stated feeling satisfied with the training they received.
Regardless, there’s still plenty of room for improvement.
What and how do employees actually want to learn?
We need to answer this question to ensure that your organization can deliver quality employee training despite the challenges.
These are some of the aspects of training that employees highlighted as critical to their learning.
What employees want to learn
- Hard skills. Nearly 9 out of 10 employees (88%) reported needing training on the hard skills or core competencies specific to their role and current duties.
- Soft skills. These are vital when it comes to career progression, which is why workers want to receive support in developing soft skills, such as effective communication, collaboration or leadership, as well as the hard skills they need to perform their job adequately.
- Relevancy. A third of employees (32%) stated that they want to be sure that the content of the training topics they cover is current. If they’re going to invest time in learning, they want to be confident that what they’re learning is relevant to their current situation and not outdated information.
How employees want to learn
- Group training. Nearly a third of employees (32%) want their training to have a social component, such as learning in groups, or using peer-to-peer learning, when coworkers teach each other.
In fact, the Harvard Business Review found in a 2016 survey  that 55% of employees seek out colleagues when they want to learn something new, and 69% turn to their boss or mentor, as they trust their experience and expertise.
- Customization. Employees also want their learning experiences to be tailored specifically to them and how they like to learn. Nearly a third of employees (31%) want more control over the training programs they participate in, including deciding on formats to match their learning style to get the most out of it.
- Delivery. When asked which formats they preferred their training in, the respondents gave a wide range of responses.
Two-thirds of employees (62%) reported that they prefer a hybrid method of learning that combines both virtual and face-to-face training, and nearly as many employees (59%) want the option of offline learning to study in a self-paced manner.
In terms of actual format, when asked to select all that they liked, these were the results:
- Instruction through simulation (64%)
- Coaching or mentoring (51%)
- Video (50%)
- Webinars or lectures (38%)
- Textbooks and other printed materials (34%)
- Micro-learning through bite-size lessons (32%)
- Audio or podcast format (25%)
- Role-playing (19%)
- Blogs and other Internet sources (17%)
It’s clear that with the variety of learning preferences among employees, companies need to bear in mind the different ways that employees learn, as well as their most desired skills, when designing their L&D programs.
How to do employee training the “right” way
In the report, SHRM researchers noted that employers could break through barriers to learning and development by establishing a culture that values and prioritizes educational growth, matching skills development with the overarching organizational goals, and meeting employees’ training requirements through their L&D initiatives.
Some ways in which employers can ensure that training is appreciated and valued in the organization are;
- Staying in touch with employees and asking them regularly what their training needs are, so they can better meet them.
- Establishing the figure of “learning ambassadors” in the organization, who can act as mentors to other employees or connect with others with similar training needs.
- Creating mechanisms to promote employee recognition to celebrate those that reach specific training goals, such as earning a college degree or professional credentials.
Employees want to feel that their company values learning and development and they want training that is current, social, tailored to them, and delivered in a way that best suits their needs. Luckily for employers, there are many ways to ensure employee training is effective, but it all starts with giving L&D the proper priority in the company.
Only by assigning the right resources in terms of time and budget to training can an organization hope to create the ideal learning environment for their employees.
If continued learning is to be effective, there must be an ongoing feedback loop between employer and employees to best assess needs and measure if the organization is delivering on training objectives.
This way, the company can continue to grow by ensuring that it gives its employees the skills they need to stay ahead in today’s ever-changing business landscape.
Employees can also maintain their commitment to the company by feeling that their professional development is a priority for the organization.
If done right, training can and should become a critical part of the company’s employee benefits package and a key differentiator in today’s war for talent, attracting and retaining the best of the best.