Employees sure hate training, don’t they? In nearly every report we see on workplace skills development, employees and managers alike say that training programs burden their victims far more than they help.
It’s frustrating to hear when employees don’t see the value in training. A culture of good workplace skills development is one of the best perks an employee can enjoy. And they do recognize that—there’s no employee in the world who doesn’t want to get better at their job and improve their career. If your workers loathe the very threat of training, it’s not because they’re uninterested in learning; it’s because you’re doing it wrong. Luckily, it’s easy to design a program that works better.
Employees often have good reasons for disliking training. If a company requires its workers to undergo regulator-mandated education with more of an eye towards checking off a box than the efficacy of the exercise, there’s a pretty good chance that the workers will sense that. It’s easy to identify where that type of training goes awry: the goal is compliance rather than learning. It’s harder to diagnose what’s wrong when the company genuinely wants to enable skills development. Professor Robert O. Brinkerhoff famously reported that a true “transfer of knowledge” is realized for only 15% of all training participants. We hear often about the “roller coaster effect,” which refers to the short life span of newly learned skills. According to Dr. Eduardo Salas, an expert on organizational training, 90% of new skills are lost within a year of learning them. The training status quo is not efficient for managers, and it’s not working for employees.
When training does work—surprise! Employees want more of it. People don’t dislike training, they dislike wasting time without learning. Getting results means everything to an office training program. Trainees need to see the positive impact of training in order for a true cultural shift to happen. “Trainees who perceive training as useful and valuable are far more likely to apply new competencies in the workplace,” says Dr. Salas.
An easy way to make training’s gains visible is to initiate the process by identifying concrete performance indicators that the program will improve. That way, learners have ready evidence of their progress, which not only motivates them to continue training, but actually helps the learning mechanism within their brains. From a cognitive perspective, the mental process of consolidation is aided when new information forms neural connections to other, existing knowledge. It’s why we at Grovo design our micro lessons to place content in a wider context, which we call the “story” element of microlearning. Tangible job improvement provides just that kind of context, so it helps retention.
Unfortunately, most training doesn’t take direct results into account. It talks at learners, not with them, by moving at a pace that’s either too fast or too slow. It doesn’t make clear how a new skill will help their job performance, partly because it’s delivered at a time when they’re not in need of it. Just-in-time training, by contrast, is learning that the employee seeks out at the point of need. When you’re wondering how to do something, there’s little in the world as helpful as finding that answer. It also moves at the learner’s pace. With a just-in-time microlearning training program, it’s basically impossible for learners to feel overwhelmed. This means a lighter cognitive load, more retention, and more satisfaction with the training process.
Imagine how fun physical exercise would be if it never made you feel any healthier or any fitter. How many people would choose to do it? The same dilemma faces the majority of training rolled out by large organizations. Employees hate training not because they don’t like learning, but because they’re often not doing any learning. Antipathy to workplace training says more about the way the content is being delivered to them than it does about the learners. If your employees roll their eyes whenever forced to submit to continued education, you can at least take solace in the fact that you’re far from alone. But there’s a better way. When training works, it works for everybody.