What do US employees want from their learning at work?

Written by Jeff Weber on 1 December 2016 in Feature
Feature

What are the top three changes in workplace learning that employees from across the Pond want from their organisations? Jeff Weber gives us a summary of some recent research.

A woman giving a presentation

Only 31.5 per cent of US employees are engaged in their jobs, according to a 2015 report from Gallup. That’s less than a third. And millennial workers – adults ages 18 to 34 and the largest generation in the U.S. workforce – are especially not fully engaged in their work; the report showed that 71 per cent are either not engaged or actively disengaged at work, making them the least engaged generation1 in the U S.

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These data points stress a significant need for employers to re-engage to improve retention and productivity.  But what does effective engagement looks like? Engagement can skyrocket with sufficient training and educational opportunities. Your workers are eager to learn from your company and gain needed industry skills they can’t access in a formal higher education setting – a prime opportunity for companies to create meaningful training programmes and in-office education opportunities that truly engage.

While engaging millennials and earning their loyalty through training and learning opportunities is crucial, it’s not just the millennials we need to be targeting. All workers of all generations and skill levels desire continuous education and training provided by their employers. A study from Bridge by Instructure2 polled more than 1,000 working women and men across the US and found that all of them value continuous education programmes within their companies, regardless of level or age. Apparently, building a culture of learning at work is a workplace imperative, and tapping into technologies that allow immediate access to this information on any platform at any time is as well.

Training is vital for job satisfaction

Training is the most important factor for job satisfaction when it comes to learning opportunities at work, based on Bridge’s survey results. With that, 36 per cent of respondents agreed information training was most important, trumping mentorship, a tuition reimbursement programme and international fellowships.

It’s rather intuitive to connect effective training programmes to stronger employee satisfaction. And yet, many companies aren’t putting two and two together. A recent report from the Conference Board, a research group focusing on economics and business conditions, found that although job satisfaction hit a 10-year high in 20163, it’s still below 50 per cent. One of the top five reasons workers cited for loss of satisfaction was unhappiness with their company’s job training programmes.

What employees want to see prioritised in the future

Employees want education at work in order to feel more fulfilled in their jobs. Because of this vision, they’re asking for changes to priorities and programmes at their organisations. Here are the top three things they want.

Continuous learning opportunities

Learning at work is the future of non-traditional education; there are many skills and growth experiences that professionals simply can’t attain from a lecture hall or textbook. The Bridge study found that, in the next five years, employees want to see more opportunities to learn about their industry than they want tuition reimbursement, mentorship programmes, international fellowships and sabbaticals. It seems that to workers, in-office, relevant information about their industry is more valuable than the instruction they would receive by a professor. Employees value company expertise in its sector more than less applicable academic knowledge.

Tuition reimbursement

Workers still aren’t disparaging academia or deeming it irrelevant. Men and women workers cited tuition reimbursement as the second trend they want to see expand in the next five years. Many employees want to pursue additional degrees, often to boost their value in a company, earn a promotion or a raise and increase their skill-set. But master’s degrees are no small investment for an individual to tackle alone. FinAid.org estimates the cost of a master’s degree can range from $30,000 to $120,000, with the tuition depending on university and programme type. For example, a Harvard MBA for the class of 2018 costs upwards of 100,000.4 Of course, not all of your employees will be attending this top-of-the-Ivy-League institution, but even a smaller sum of money can put your employees in unmanageable debt or cause stressful financial strain. Supplementing tuition can be a huge help to these employees trying to grow their skill-set.

Informational training

Informational training is the third trend that should be prioritised in the future according to workers. Employees seek to learn about the ins and outs of your organisation and how its mission fits in the larger landscape of the industry you occupy. This includes everything from mining to retail to manufacturing to engineering. Retail employees want to know the latest technological skills in omni-channel customer service driving their industry; miners and engineers want to freshen up their science and maths skills while learning the newest safety protocol to avoid injury; and manufacturers want to learn skills like supply chain management and engineering that keep them competitive in an industry slowly being taken over by the machine.

Employees also want to participate in offsite learning/training opportunities that further broaden their knowledge of the industry. But 17 per cent of responding professionals said their companies don’t offer off-site training opportunities, and 42 per cent reported that their companies only offer them somewhat or very infrequently. A happy blend of on-site and offsite training and growth opportunities are what employees need to be well-informed, highly skilled cognoscenti that add true value to your company.

Learning at work

Training at work is important to everyone, from millennials to baby boomers and the generations in between. And accessing training on any device anywhere is equally as important as our society increasingly goes mobile.

Providing training relevant to the job and advantageous to someone’s career will improve job satisfaction and directly increase employee productivity and, therefore, value to the company. With this added value, effective training will inevitably elevate your organisation’s bottom line. Ultimately, investing in your employees’ education is investing in your company’s future success.

References  

  1. http://bit.ly/2gP79zX
  2. http://bit.ly/2gYywf1
  3. http://on.wsj.com/2fVueDs
  4. http://hbs.me/2gYBekO

 

 

 

 

About the author

Jeff Weber is senior vice president of people and places at Bridge by Instructure

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