Investing in employee talent: its challenges and solutions
Most organizations are aware that their employees are their biggest asset and understand the significance of employee training and development. Today, many companies are willing to allocate a large amount of resources into expanding their employees‘ skills and knowledge to improve employee retention and advance their competitive advantage. However, many development programs seem to be ineffective in helping them achieve their goals as more companies report that they are still not getting an influential return on their investment. This article aims to identify possible training issues and propose several recommendations to solve those concerns.
Employee training and development is an important form of human capital management and remains to be an integral part of Strategic Human Resources Management (SHRM). With benefits ranging from improved performance, productivity, motivation and innovation, companies simply have a responsibility to ensure that their employees are equipped with the skills and knowledge to be successful in their roles and are capable to achieve the company’s strategic and operational goals. This means that the Human Resources (HR) or Learning and Development (L&D) team must show a high level of commitment to their human resource development and introduce a constructive initiative to fulfill the intended advantages.
Below are the five most common issues and challenges in training and development, and the suggestions which are vital in assiting HR and L&D teams to have an organizational focus in developing an effective training strategy for more favorable outcomes.
- Unclear training needs and strategies
This challenge occurs when organizations‘ direction and values are ambiguous, leading to irresolute strategies and conflicting priorities. In fact, many organizations struggle to plan in accordance with their desired future and experience an enormous disconnection between their business goals and training strategies, jeapordizing the chances of training investment and organizational growth.
Hence, companies must first define their future by focusing on their vision and mission and setting clear and specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely (SMART) goals. Organizations must also consider the different needs and capabilities of various work departments and units in the context of their own strategies and goals, and identify the common needs and gaps that they need to evaluate.
Recognizing that missing piece of the puzzle then helps organizations establish the proper strategic business and development objectives to develop a well-managed training and development model that helps employees achieve their performance results. When these objectives are aligned with learning, they become real, tangible and meaningful, empowering employees with the ability to understand the significance of their contributions and see them operationalized.
- Different learning habits
A diverse workforce has many evidenced advantages, however it also poses the challenge of coaching different generations and personalities with distinct learning preferences and habits. People not only have different knowledge levels, but they also come from different walks of life and cultures that promote divergent perspectives. Many companies tend to neglect the magnitude of having cultural intelligence and uniqueness and individuality of their employees, resulting in an identical and ineffectual training design that does not appeal to a broad and multi-generational audience.
Therefore, the need for a more in-depth employee analysis is crucial to help companies invent a customized and intercultural training program. Understanding and treating a team of employees as separate characters helps identify their learning patterns, how comfortable they are with technology, and the suitable training format and environment that they can benefit most from.
For example, some employees gather and retain more information better when they get to experience or interact with the concepts or systems rather than being taught about them. Similarly, some employees are more tech-savvy and learn faster through online training tutorials and resources. Training must be designed in a way that can enhance collaboration and it can be presented as online, in-person or blended and delivered through a unique methodology with a seamless user experience that is useful for all learners.
- Lack of employee engagement
Lack of engagement is another challenge in this topic, and it may be caused by a variety of factors, such as a lack of commitment, irrelevant training content or an uninteresting learning platform. When they disengage from the learning process and resist learning, they do not get the full benefit from the program, rendering the effort almost useless and costing companies money and time. This factor is also detrimental in organizational success as behavioural change is unsustainable without learning engagement.
Hence, companies must find effective methods to inspire and motivate their employees to immerse themselves in learning. Firstly, the portfolio of training courses must comprise of applicable and stimulating courses that value not only the organizations, but also each individual employee. This can be achieved by performing a job analysis, comprehending the requirements for performing the work and tasks, and aligning those goals with the organizational objectives.
Secondly, trainers must be relatable and possess both internal and external knowledge and expertise to deliver captivating training subjects, working closely with HR and L&D teams to develop practical training materials and environment than enhance cognitive and behavioral engagement. Gamification is also becoming increasingly popular as a way to complement existing training courses with game design elements to improve training outcomes (Armstrong & Landers, 2018).
- Not monitoring progress
After conducting thorough analyses on the organizational objectives, employee individuality and their roles, and creating suitable training content, it will be counter productive not to measure the effectuality of the delivered training courses. Planning and implementing training programs is only half the battle, and organizations must continue to monitor progress. Without this activity, organizations have no way of identifying what is working and addressing what is not working.
Respecting employees‘ feedback is paramount in appraising the courses by evaluating areas of excellence and improvement and understanding what employees want or need further. Naturally, organizations also expect employees to perform better in carrying out their duties and other business elements such as innovating and managing change. This entails capturing quantifiable results and key metrics on training results to determine the return on investment (ROI) of training.
There are various learning management systems (LMS) that organizations can utilize to help them track training and observe improved performance and productivity easily. Such systems provide managers with built-in assessments that produces reports of user statistics and scores, before, during and after training. Ultimately, it only makes sense for organizations to only invest in training that produces results and generates higher ROI.
- Not promoting a development culture
Many organizations fail to recognize that learning and development is a continuous process, not a side activity. In fact, the strength and success of an organization massively depends on its learning and development culture and how much their employees have a quest for new knowledge. On the job and off the job coaching is recommended to start during induction and onboarding, and must persist throughout the employee lifecycle to amplify their KSA to meet current and future job requirements.
Managers must first lead by example by having an open mindset, having regular and effective communication and providing meaningful and constructive feedback to all employees. They can also nurture critical thinking and reward those who display curiosity, initiative and enthusiasm in continuous learning in an effort to grow and develop.
Furthermore, Noe, 2017, advises companies to be alert of the changing trends that may influence training delivery and administration, such as how technological advancements can shape the way we work, learn and interact with each other. There may be a greater emphasis on the sustainability and speed of learning design, format and content to support knowledge and performance management.
Organizations have a moral, social and corporate solidity to qualify their employees to become independent and responsible employees who not only perform their roles well, but who are also able to think outside the box, make wise decisions and produce new innovations and ways of thinking and doing tasks. Providing education for personal and professional growth is also undoubtedly always worthy in its own right. When employees are given the opportunity to acquire more knowledge, skills and abilities (KSA) to help them advance their careers, they are most likely to stay loyal to the company and share knowledge and information within the team, which is otherwise lost to competitors. For training and development to trigger organizational change, it is important to attend to employee transformations by supporting them with the right development tools.
Bibliography (standard format of citations according to international standards):
Raymond A. Noe. Employee Training and Development. 7th Edition. McGraw Hill Education New York, 2017.
Author: Ria Riadi, a student at LIGS University, under the supervision of Dr. Marian Stadler.