Employee development: Why does it continue to fall short?

Dipak Patel takes employee development to task.

Reading time: 4 minutes.

“Are employees getting what they need from their employers to when it comes to learning and performance management?” This question was the starting point to uncover the gaps between perception and reality across different aspects of talent management. The results were interesting across the board, particularly those around employee learning and development.

80% of HR leaders believe training and development is effective at helping people acquire the skills they need to move their careers forward. When you add in the fact that 72% feel like their organisation provides employees with the ability to easily collaborate and participate in informal learning opportunities, it appears as though it’s smooth sailing.

However, employees don’t feel the same way – one third of employees (33%) reported that training and development programmes are ‘not too effective’ or ‘not at all effective’, and only 51% of employees agree that their organisation provides the right forums for collaboration.

76% of HR leaders feel their organisation’s performance review process is helpful; only 46% of employees agree. So why do the perceptions of employers and employees not match up?

The disconnect in learning was also seen in performance management practices – 76% of HR leaders feel their organisation’s performance review process is helpful; only 46% of employees agree. So why do the perceptions of employers and employees not match up? And what’s stopping HR and talent leaders from sustaining higher levels of employee engagement?

Overcoming obstacles

In many cases, the challenge for HR and talent leaders is about balance. They often have to choose between satisfying the needs of the business and the needs of their people. It’s a delicate balance because both are important. Here are three tips talent leaders might consider to help achieve the balance between the needs of the business and the needs of people:

  • Think about the employee experience. Consider the goal of learning and development from an employee’s perspective – why do they want training? What skills do they need to be great at what they do? What skills do they need to prepare for the next step in their career?

If your training is mainly focused on achieving regulatory compliance, then this is simply a business overhead. It does not in any way represent true development for your employees. In fact, employees tend to turn to Google first for on-the-job learning content.

A quick search can pull up valuable content from blogs, videos, podcasts or free elearning material. Now, L&D professionals can use tools to help track and analyse informal and formal learning activity at the same time, providing key metrics on the types of content people like to consume, which can then help inform the curation of similar content for future use.

This is important from a practical standpoint because, as Bersin by Deloitte’s predictions for 2017 report notes, it’s becoming more imperative to improve the employee experience overall, which includes how they interact with, share, and consume learning content.

  • Embrace collaboration and informal learning. The 70:20:10 model of learning holds that only 10% of learning in the workplace is formal (e.g. instructor-led learning, mandatory compliance training). Despite this, the learning budgets of most organisations continue to focus on that 10%, and there is little support for informal learning and mentoring.

But, we know the future of work is going to have less barriers such as geography, departmental, technical and more. This means people need to connect and collaborate on projects or group learning activities with ease so they can so they can work, learn, and grow together. 

  • Gather insight from ‘always on’ feedback mechanisms. Annual performance review meetings are simply not effective when it comes to addressing employee needs. The same can be said about annual engagement surveys. The emerging best practice sees organisations capturing employee feedback and sentiment on a regular basis.

When these feedback mechanisms are integrated within a broader talent management strategy, good use can be made of the data collected. An always-on feedback channel provides talent leaders with real-time data on important items that matter to employees, such as personal development and performance, giving them the information they need to better engage their people.

In August, Willis Towers Watson found that almost a third of UK employers (29%) reported rising rates of employee turnover and that retaining high-potential employees and top performers is becoming increasingly challenging

The measure of any successful talent strategy has to be an improvement in employee engagement – it is the ultimate report card. Talent leaders who are able to meet business goals and give employees the resources and tools they need to be successful will be well on their way to retain current employees and attract top talent.

Learning, performance and engagement are inextricably linked. It is time to break down the silos so that employees and the organisation can thrive. The results will be measurable – decreased employee turnover and increased employee engagement resulting in improved performance – and a boost to the bottom line.


About the author

Dipak Patel is Regional Vice President Solution Consulting & Strategic Accounts EMEA at Saba.


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