Sponsored by FranklinCovey
If you’re involved in hiring or managing people, no one needs to tell you that competition for top talent is still incredibly fierce. And keeping teams engaged and motivated keeps getting more difficult all the time. That’s why it pays to be especially thoughtful and strategic about how you train employees.
But what exactly does that mean? Your employees may be completing assigned training, but is that enough to boost retention? How do you know if your training programs are driving the right kind of business results? Let’s dig deeper…
When You Train Employees, How Do You Define Success?
In many ways, employee training is like mom and apple pie. What’s not to like? It prepares people to do their jobs well. It demonstrates goodwill. And ideally, it leads to better business performance.
But if that’s the case, why do so many companies treat training like an uphill battle? And why do so many employees feel the same way?
These statistics are telling: In 2022, at the height of the so-called Great Resignation, 76% of employees said they were more likely to stay with a company that offers continuous learning. That makes sense. After all, opportunities to learn and grow help people feel supported and valued. The more relevant and meaningful those opportunities are, the better.
Meanwhile, what were employers thinking? In the same survey, 85% of HR leaders agreed that training is beneficial for organizational growth. And more than half said they were offering programs for upskilling (59%) or reskilling (55%).
Looking back now, I can’t help wondering how beneficial those training efforts were in retaining staff who were ready to jump ship. But what about the other 40% of employers who didn’t bother to double down on skills-focused learning? I’m sure they’re now scrambling to keep up. And I bet they wish they had done more sooner.
There’s an important lesson here. Don’t be short-sighted about employee learning and development. It pays to train employees — not just for the job at hand, but for their future, as well. Why? Because, as smart employers know, the potential for long-term growth gives people a compelling reason to engage with work and stay committed over time.
So, knowing this fact, what causes some organizations to hold back on development? Let’s keep looking for answers…
Overcoming Typical Training Hurdles
Below are a few common training obstacles, along with several ideas for dealing with them. At first glance, these challenges may seem unrelated. But wherever you find one obstacle, keep in mind that you’re likely to find others. That’s because these problems could be rooted in deeper cultural issues:
1. Lack of Executive Support
I don’t know who needs to hear this, but let me repeat it for those in the back row who missed the past 20 years of employee learning best practices: Employee training is not a cost. It is an investment.
Although most leaders recognize the need to develop a future-ready workforce, too many organizations still treat L&D like a discretionary funding yo-yo. At the first sign of a business hiccup or a broader economic slowdown, what do they slash? The training budget. But if you want your business to outperform the competition in good times and bad, that’s no way to manage talent.
Trust me, if you don’t invest in your people, your competitors eventually will. And the cost of replacing those people will leave a much deeper dent in your business than the price of building a strong learning culture.
2. Weak Programs
Poor design. Poor execution. Both are rampant. No one wants to feel like learning is a waste of time. Then why is so much employee training so awful?
Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be that way. The reasons why training programs fall short are as varied as the organizations that produce them. But with an abundance of proven instructional techniques and tools around every corner, there are also many ways to determine what’s wrong and strengthen your approach.
Here’s one secret many learning leaders understand: Employees know what works for them. So ask for their input, listen to their answers, and treat learning as a two-way street.
Where should you start? Surveys say employees would improve training in several key ways:
- Align learning more directly with job responsibilities,
- Update content more frequently, and
- Make the learning experience more social.
Here’s another option to consider: Look at how automation is breathing new life into learning programs everywhere. A couple of years ago, that may have been hyperbole. But now with generative AI as an instructional design and development co-pilot, you can evaluate learning experiences and revitalize content in a fraction of the time and effort previously required. There is no reason not to try.
3. Unclear Focus
Frankly, many training programs are spread too thin. It could be the result of structural issues or insufficient funding. But more likely than not, it’s a sign that you need a more coherent, consistent strategy.
If so, here’s one way to fix it. Lead with skills! Step back and assess what you want to achieve as a business. Pinpoint gaps in the competencies your organization needs to achieve those goals. Then focus first on filling those gaps.
This approach is worth the effort for two reasons. It solves immediate problems by creating a clear training agenda that links to every role. And it creates pathways for people who want to develop and grow with your organization. This mobilizes talent and drives retention. And for business leaders, that is a beautiful thing.
If You Train Employees Will They Stay?
Of course, success is not just about developing and delivering stellar training content. That’s important, but it’s not enough. You also need a context that encourages and reinforces workforce learning and growth. Why? Consider this: Deloitte estimates that retention is 30-50% higher among companies with a strong learning culture.
But this begs the question — how can leaders build and sustain a learning environment that engages people so they want to stay onboard and advance your agenda?
Early last year, I explored this challenge with Paul Walker, CEO at FranklinCovey. Paul is a brilliant business leader and a recognized expert in learning and development. He has been helping FranklinCovey’s client companies grow and adapt for more than 20 years. So I know you’ll appreciate his POV…
1. Understand What Connects Training With Retention
Research tells us training is integral to retention for several reasons:
- When you train employees, they feel valued because you’re investing in them. And the more valued people feel, the more likely they are to stay.
- Training helps people perform better. We all want to do our best work everyday. If we need skills to do that, and our employer helps us acquire those capabilities, it helps us do better today. And it also prepares us for something exciting in the future. Again, we feel valued.
2. Focus on Factors That Drive Effective Training
Over and over again we see employees focusing on these questions:
- Is it easy for me to access, so I can get the most out of it?
- How well does it fit into the flow of my daily work life?
- Is it useful? Does it actually help me perform better?
- How relevant is it now, and will it prepare me for where I want to be in the future?
3. Choose Metrics That Matter
When training employees, we need to be sure we’re not just advocating for retention or other objectives that may feel a bit soft to people who make budgetary and strategic decisions. These leaders don’t necessarily see how learning supports what they want to accomplish.
Instead, we need to focus on how learning improves the quality of the team’s results. This is crucial to the organization’s performance.
We need to speak the same language Deloitte used in research about companies with intentional, sophisticated learning programs:
- 92% develop more novel products and processes,
- 56% are often first-to-market with products and services,
- 52% are measurably more productive, and
- 17% are more profitable.
4. Make Training a Leadership Priority
I would also say the best organizations have figured out how to ignite a passion for employee learning in their leaders. In other words, people development is a key leadership expectation, and leaders want to be involved in helping their people grow and develop. It’s not just the responsibility of HR or L&D…
EDITOR’S NOTE: For more guidance about how to train employees for retention, listen to this full podcast episode. And for more #WorkTrends insights, check our growing collection of episodes at Apple or Spotify and subscribe!