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Why invest in training for your greatest asset

The skills market is littered with challenges at the moment. Employers need to save costs, while increasingly demanding more of their people and trying to retain them.  

Some organisations are therefore exploring ways to upskill, reskill and retain valuable people weighed up against delivering cost effective learning and development solutions and this recent report from City & Guilds highlights the importance of getting it right. 

Skills shortages and the pressure of sector poaching are driving wages up.  

Hanging over all of this is a very real and pressing need for agility and flexibility.  

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The need for capable, engaged workforces is as critical as it ever was. Drawing back into one of our previous posts about the five key questions centred around employee engagement, now is a very apt time to dive into learning and development. When so much is needed of employees, are they getting what they need to perform? Do they get what is being asked of them? Have they got the skills to do what is expected of them? 


Nothing creates value like people do.   

They are the asset that doesn’t depreciate.   


A relatively small investment in cash can generate massive increases in value for both employers and employees. A valued and invested employee is far more likely to remain loyal to a business and stay. It’s about how you help your people feel valued and deliver value.  

Can we afford to develop our people? 

What are the consequences if you don’t? Unhappy, unsatisfied employees, reduced productivity, increased staff turnover and more*1. Everything a company should be keen to avoid, particularly now.  

The most important task is to understand what capability you need in your people. 

Developing people is something that should be approached strategically, not tactically. Organisations need to look at the whole picture, explore what they are seeking to achieve and decide what abilities their workforce needs to make things happen. A purely tactical view of training leads to inefficiency and reduced effectiveness.  It can also disengage your precious workforce.  

Look at ALL the things people need to do. Avoid being blasé about things that people should just be able to do. Don’t take any skills for granted; for example, avoid assumptions that people will of course naturally be good at communicating with each other and that managers will obviously just know how to listen. These critical abilities should not be relegated to the status of “soft skills” - they make a significant difference when people have them and should not be pushed down the priority list when defining training needs. 

Will the “new normal” style of training work? 

Training should be something that happens as part of work, not as an isolated side activity. Sadly, people can have preconceptions of what learning is like - more about the ‘talked at’ approach rather than engaged and involved. Yet, the experience nowadays can be completely different. And the right approach can lead to people investing in self-development and committed to making it work. 

The future of learning is blended; using the best methods available at the right time, to develop people and to make best use of tight budgets. Both online and face-to-face learning methods have their own advantages and disadvantages. A lot of learners may still prefer the discipline and familiarity that face-to-face learning brings. Equally, even prior to the new hybrid way of working, online learning had become established as an effective way to engage and learn.  

Now, this approach has become even more prevalent. And for good reason. It is not just about the ease and accessibility. Research suggests that online learning has been shown to increase retention of information and take less time. This was illustrated in an education setting during the pandemic where on average, students retained 25-60% more material when learning online compared to only 8-10% in a classroom and learnt faster*2. Moving into a corporate setting; e-learning requires 40-60% less employee time than that learned in a classroom environment, with retention rates also being 25-60%*3. Little wonder then, that: 

42% of companies say online learning has led to increased revenue, with every $ invested in training resulting in $30 in productivity. Companies that use online learning technology achieve an 18% boost to employee engagement.*3

So online learning is now well accepted and virtual classrooms are becoming an important part of the mix. Organisations have many options available to them. Having a clear understanding of the learners and the capabilities they need to develop, should guide the choice of solution. 

How can I train smarter, not harder? 

The importance of developing employees is widely confirmed by research. Multiple benefits are cited; whether it is to grow knowledge, improve skills or build responsibilities, as illustrated by leading recruitment site Indeed *4. People are likely to learn more if challenged and asked to give practical responses. Opportunities for learning should be accessible and learned in the flow of work. This sustainable approach cultivates enquiring minds and ensures the right content available, in the moment. 

This applied training makes what is being learned more real for the learners. So, people are better placed to take on board what has been learned and put it into practice. This science of learning transfer is briefly explored by Science for Work*5 who want to #MakeWorkBetter. We have taken this a little further and translated it into three core principles: 

EVALUATION OF SKILLS to distinguish between what people coulddo in their role, from what they will actually do

A SUSTAINABLE, REALISTIC APPROACH to promote applied learning, giving them the confidence to give things a go and try to adopt the skills and knowledge

ENCOURAGEMENT OF OWNERSHIP AND SELF WORTH by communicating clearly the training benefits, being transparent about expectations, and what doing the job well looks like, while being supportive 

The aim of all this is higher learning transfer and implementation. While the term ‘in the moment’ learning is not new; ensuring that it is actively pursued is an area that John Seely Brown discusses as part of the new cultures of learning*5

“We’re moving from ‘stocks’ of knowledge to ‘flows’ of knowledge being the valuable commodity to possess. Another way to look at stocks vs. flows is as protecting knowledge assets and resisting change vs. participating in knowledge flows and creating new knowledge.” 

This is where we can look to train smarter, not harder and make training not feel like training. 

How do I make change happen through learning? 

Be clear about how people can best develop their abilities.  

As a business, you can work towards achieving what you need your people to do through learning. And this can be by making training not really look like training. Instead, create relevant, engaging, and practical approaches. Ones that are right for your teams and the environments they operate in.  

Encourage them to move away from the “I haven’t got time to do this training”, “I don’t feel like training” or “I don’t need training” mentality. If this is what you are hearing, it would suggest they have not comprehended the true context of the training or how that fits within the overall business. Openly communicate, listen and see how they respond to learning. Get on their wavelength, appreciate their pressures and talk. However, remember it is not all one-sided. They need to have the self-belief that they can create new knowledge by stepping up and committing.  

As John Seely Brown also highlights*5:

“People learn through their interaction and participation with one another in fluid relationships that are the result of shared interests and opportunity.” 

“The challenge is to find ways to marry structure and freedom to create altogether new things.” 

How to engage your people to want to learn 

What we really want is for people to feel that learning does not have to be what they may think of as traditional training. With more on-the-job access to relevant, engaging learning materials and support they can be empowered to learn in the moment. This makes it a more constructive and enjoyable experience. The aim of which is that they come away feeling positive and engaged about what they have learnt, what skills they have gained and with a clear view on how they can apply it every day, with the next steps defining how they measure what they are doing and ultimately what rewards there are for them. Learning Director here at The Motivation Agency, Dominic Doe, gave a useful perspective on this here 









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