The typical worker now changes jobs 10-15 times in a career, with the U.S. Department of Labour saying that the median workplace tenure for people between the ages of 25-34 has fallen to 2.8 years – less than three times that of people 55-64 (10.1 years). That’s putting increased pressure on organizations to develop effective and engaged employees with more modern learning strategies.
The good news is that many of today’s employees are actively seeking out on-the-job learning as they look to acquire transferable skills. However, while U.S. companies spent more than $70 billion on employee learning and development in 2016, there is still ample room for improvement. In a recent McKinsey study, 40% of chief learning officers admitted that their efforts in the space were either “ineffective” or “neither effective nor ineffective.”
While formal learning is still important, practical skills—mostly acquired through on-the-job learning programs, employer feedback, etc.—are gaining in importance, as is the development of critical soft skills. There has been a pronounced shift in workplace learning in recent years, from companies deciding what their employees NEED to know to employees determining what they WANT to know in order to accelerate their professional development and achieve specific career goals. That shift is only accelerating as the world of work changes at an increasingly rapid clip.
To accommodate this change in status quo, organizations should shift away from simply providing employees with information, to providing them with tech-enabled opportunities to learn through experience as well as more informal, “just-in-time” modes of learning. The majority of millennials, for example (who now comprise the largest share of the labor market) look to YouTube as a trusted learning resource, which speaks volumes about how they prefer to consume learning content.
Once a hallmark of employee learning programs, the “Death by PowerPoint” approach has become antiquated and ineffective, requiring companies to look at upgrading their systems to satisfy the changing learning needs of their employees.
Here are two key questions to consider when evaluating your own employee learning programs:
- Is there one area you feel is falling short, or an area where improvement could have a significant impact?
- How is that training being delivered today? Is it simply directed content, or are there opportunities for practice and/or a feedback loop that allows employees to share what they’ve learned. Engaged employees can become your biggest allies and evangelists.
Here are four key strategies that companies can use to help modernize their employee learning systems and make them more effective.
Utilize your subject matter experts (SMEs)
Identifying in-house experts who can contribute to the organization’s collective knowledge is key for propelling internal expertise. Using tools like video capture helps enables a company to create a valuable content repository that can be accessed by employees on an as-needed basis so that knowledge can be shared at scale.
Employ problem-based learning, rooted in real-world problems
Presenting employees with real-world problems in a training environment—essentially creating bite-sized learning opportunities that recreate on-the-job scenarios—allows them to develop actionable solutions and ideas without fear of failure. Facilitating constructive feedback from managers, mentors, and other experts is key for helping employees to improve iteratively over time.
Adding gaming elements to learning is a proven tactic for employee engagement. In one survey, 91% of employees indicated that gamification improves their work experience by increasing engagement, awareness and productivity, while three-quarters of people aged 22-35 years old believe it should be present in a modern workplace learning environment.
Many training programs are developed with a single user in mind, but the reality is that we are social creatures who thrive on interaction with our peers and feedback from supervisors; millennials want feedback 50% more often than other empoyees and most of them (88%) prefer a collaborative work environment. When implementing training, look at how employees accomplish a task in real life, and develop a way that they can work together to practice.
It is crucial that companies regard internal learning programs not as a cost center but a potential revenue generator. While it might take time to convince the company’s CFO of the merits of moving to modern workplace learning programs, by conducting trials and collecting data that demonstrates their efficacy, investment will follow.
To learn more about how to modernize your employee learning programs, watch the webinar “Modernizing Internal Learning: The Challenge of Keeping Employees Current.”