Attitudes towards training from two perspectives

Finding the balance between up-skilling a business without only equipping employees to move on.

Online courses, evening classes and events all offer flexible ways to build training into your business with minimal disruption. Credit: Steve Bisson / AP/Press Association Images

As squeezed budgets and time pressures continue to push Learning and Development to the edge of business priorities, UK labour productivity is falling at the fastest pace since 2008. 

There has never been a more important time to focus on helping our workers up-skill. Yet, new findings from my organisation, AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians), reveal that workers in the UK are currently spending more time on tea breaks than training, and almost a third (30 per cent) have never received any work-based training.

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Training can be perceived as presenting many challenges for employers. For HR managers and employers concerns range from cost, time and disruption to the risk of investing in employees only to see them fly the roost in favour of a new role thanks to their new qualifications. 

However, nine out of ten (90 per cent) employees told us that they do not seek training to help them move jobs, and half (50 per cent) consider training as a deciding factor at interviews. Training may seem like a high-cost, low-return spend, but the slow-burning return can be instrumental to recruitment and business development.

For employees there are also barriers: the stigma of suggesting that you do not know how to do your job, coupled with a lack of time, means that over a third (38 per cent) of staff told AAT that they would rather search online in their own time to find out how to do their job better than approach their manager about training.

Yet in reality, training and nurturing an existing workforce makes for a skilled, productive and talented team of workers who are better able to service the needs of the business and demonstrate greater confidence in their capabilities.

In AAT’s latest study, we spoke to 2,000 workers and employees to test their attitudes towards training and development and its value both to the individual and the business.

It revealed stark discrepancies in attitudes towards training with some clear watch-outs for HR teams – 72 per cent of workers want to learn more at work, and 66 per cent would consider a job solely because of its training programme.

By contrast, more than a quarter of managers feel that training is disruptive and one in six admit to only training staff when they under-perform. As a result of this divide, there is a growing need for HR managers to find a better balance and help to up-skill a business in a way that encourages loyalty, rather than motivating employees to move on.

Invest to up-skill

Beyond offering promotions, the ongoing development and support of your staff plays a key role in talent retention and the growth of your business.

Nearly half (46 per cent) of workers we spoke to agreed that training would make them more productive, but 92 per cent of managers and employees said that time and budgets are among the biggest barriers preventing learning from taking place.

Online courses, evening classes and events all offer flexible ways to build training into your business with minimal disruption.

You could action this by providing dedicated time on leave for training/studying, subsidising attendance at industry events, or setting up a mentoring or job swap programme for staff to develop the knowledge, skills and resources to be successful in their role and career.

Genuine support from employers increases employee engagement, loyalty and job satisfaction. There are many training courses available, like those from AAT, which can support businesses to empower their staff, bettering your business, and raising industry standards.

Build trust

Trust only works when it is mutual, and a breakdown of expectations between managers and employees leads to poor productivity and a disjointed, unmotivated workforce.

A fifth of managers we spoke to think that providing training will mean staff will use their new skills to move onto a new job, however just one in ten employees cited moving jobs as motivation to do training – a disconnect which HR managers must address through transparency and communication.

You can build trust by putting employees in control – ask them what types of training they would value most and invest in them as individuals. In addition, 70 per cent of those we polled agreed that external training is crucial in bringing new ideas to a team, so consider all avenues and be open to individual ways of working.

Being transparent with the workforce about the options available empowers them to own their career progression and gives them reassurance. The pay off could be a far more cohesive, happy and productive work environment for employees and managers alike.

Communication reaps rewards

Even if training is completely new in your workplace, there’s always room for discussion.

It’s the job of HR professionals to listen to the development needs of employees and feed these back to senior decision makers – those holding the purse strings for things like training and qualifications. It’s also important to identify where any skills gaps exist within an organisation and focus training and development plans on these areas.

You can help navigate a positive conversation about training in your workplace with the quiz below, developed by AAT in response to the findings of the research. The quiz covers topics relevant to employees, decision makers and HR managers.

AAT’s survey results can reassure budget holders that not training staff is a bigger risk than investing in those that can help make a difference to the company’s bottom line.


About the author 

Olivia Hill​ is the Chief HR Officer at AAT.


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