Many employers think that the concept of a learning organization, i.e. one focused on continuous employee development, applies only to large corporations. This is because they perceive additional training as a cost they cannot afford. However, this strongly conflicts with employee expectations. Who is right?
A time of paradoxes
Long before the pandemic broke out, the labor market was suffering from a talent shortage. Numerous studies indicated that companies were struggling to find people with the right competencies. In some countries (e.g. the US) people have talked about the so-called Talent Paradox for years – despite high unemployment, there was a lack of suitably qualified employees. Other paradoxes were visible on the global labor market. For example, despite investments in talent, employee turnover was not decreasing. This argument was key for training skeptics – why train specialists who will use the knowledge they acquire for our competitors? At the same time, a 2019 study indicated that as many as 94% of respondents would be willing to stay with a company longer if it invested in their development. The situation was further complicated by COVID-19.
How (not) to train employees?
The pandemic has raised further questions for employers, without solving the previous dilemmas. Forecasts for the coming years leave no illusions – we are facing new changes. Experts from the world’s largest consulting companies agree on two leading trends: reskilling and upskilling. Companies that want to maintain their competitiveness, high level and rapid pace of development will not be able to ignore talent development, because employees on the labor market will not have the competencies they need. Research already indicates that in this post-pandemic reality nearly 70% of employers are having difficulty finding the right people for the job. So the question should not be whether to train, but how to train so that employees do not want to jump ship to the competition.
Employee Experience – new expectations for new times
The pandemic proved to be a valuable lesson for leaders around the world. It was a lesson in empathetic management, focused on employee needs, relationships and listening. And, to the surprise of many people, the strategy had a positive outcome. It resulted in an unexpected increase in employee engagement. For many years, market research has proven that particularly in times of crisis, an engaged team is worth its weight in gold. It turns out that if we take care of our employees in the same way as we take care of our clients, they will gladly return the favor with greater commitment to their daily work. And that translates into higher profits.
Such purposeful shaping of the employee experience at every stage of their journey in the organization may prove crucial in retaining the best people on the market. It applies to every area of professional life, including the hiring, onboarding and development process.
Rules to follow when training employees
So how do you shape the employee experience so that it benefits both parties? The following four rules should be a starting point for planning.
1. Consistency between the L&D and company strategies
Learning & Development activities, in line with the concept of creating a positive employee experience (EX), should take into account the individual needs of employees, provided that they are in line with the company’s overall business strategy. This should be the starting point for long-term training plans. Yes, they can be managed flexibly, adapting to the dynamically changing reality (the pandemic showed us that this is a real scenario) and current needs of employees, but the entire training strategy should be embedded in the business reality of a given organization.
2. Everyone has talent
A few years ago, dr Anna Szabowska-Walaszczyk wondered how it was possible that talent development strategies designed for organizations often overlook as many as 90% of employees. How is it possible that after multi-stage selection processes, only a handful of employees are labeled as talented and are given the chance for development? It is difficult to find a satisfactory answer to this question, especially since it is those with the highest hopes who most often seek new career opportunities. The new situation on the market shows that such an approach will not work in times of talent gap. The current criteria for talent selection must therefore be changed. It will be up to organizations, especially L&D leaders and specialists, to unlock the potential of all their employees.
3. Communication that makes sense
One of the most important elements of building the employee experience in an organization is proper, multi-channel communication. It provides a sense of understanding of purpose, builds a shared organizational culture, and gives daily responsibilities a deeper meaning. If an investment in training is to keep an employee in the organization, the employee needs to know what role he or she fulfills and will fulfill in the future. This is not always about promising a promotion (at least not always). The point is to listen and talk about opportunities openly, write down resolutions (e.g. in the form of development plans) and keep your promises.
4. Creating a learning organization culture
The struggle to attract and retain the best employees on the market does not end when you plan their development path. Employees want to learn and work in an organization that understands the idea of learning. An idea which takes into account different ways of gaining knowledge and safe conditions for testing it. It means permission to make mistakes, exchange opinions and engage in shared learning. It means being open to creativity and listening to new ideas. This is how a sense of security and attachment as well as relationships are built. And those are hard to give up, even in the face of a better salary or new career challenges.
Whether training in an organization becomes a profitable investment or a waste of money and time depends on many factors. It is influenced by the choice of an experienced training provider, developing an individual strategy for a given organization, accurate analysis of the target group, appropriate promotion and effective cooperation with the provider. The role of leaders and openness to development (and thus changes) across the entire company is also essential here. Taking care of employees and shaping their employee experience results in increased engagement and satisfaction, which translates into company profits and minimized turnover.