Published on 2012/07/09

Employee Accountability in Ongoing Learning: Some Skin in the Game

Finding more ways of ensuring employees take accountability for the learning their employers are providing and facilitating could lead to more successful and extended learning opportunities. Photo by Christina Ann Van Meter.

Recently, I heard a question about how to help employees have some “skin in the game” when it comes to training. If a company pays for the time, the seminar, and other miscellaneous costs; is there any impetus on the employee to learn and apply the covered topic. Employers know that this is not always an easy topic to address, and can’t simply put part of the cost back on the employee without considering the regulations in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). We all participate in great seminars but then never put the information to use. This creates a waste of the money, time, and does not grow the initial cost as an investment.

How do we help employees as adult learners engage with learning materials or concepts and then pulling the information through into their jobs? We look for different ways to encourage the ownership of the training and application of the information.

Some ideas for this ownership focus back on why the information is important and how it will be used. Knowing this lends validity and importance. There is cost invested into training, be it an assortment of fees or time, and no business can take that lightly. Asking why and how something can be used is a legitimate question, and should be a standard part of the process.

Training and education are not meant to be the starting and stopping points for information, never translating into real purpose and use. Instead, information needs to flow through the training into the workplace. By partnering with the employee to set expectations of how the information will be used, they have a better idea of how the skill set might applies. These expectations will need to be adjusted based on the actual seminar, but it is good to anticipate and discuss what will be used after completion. Software training is a good example, where new skills are shown and then need to be utilized to stay fresh. If there is not some sense of the data being valid and useful later, then the freshly learned skills will only be a fading memory. Following through on expectations will establish an accountability to utilize the information later.

Greater accountability can be driven by having the person attending the training or educational opportunity present what was learned later. Set up a time after the training for the employee to share what was learned. Presenting information requires a different level of knowledge, especially if there will be application questions asked. Additional levels of accountability are built in, and at the same time this is an opportunity to build the now internal presenter into your subject matter expert.

Another idea is to use the training topic as the method to achieve a goal. When setting goals consider if any educational opportunities might need to be included for the achievement of the goal. Weaving this into a goal provides greater motivation as it has an established outcome.

Papers, articles in newsletters, mini-trainings in department meetings, asking an employee to help develop how the information will be actionable, or pairing up the then trained employee with someone else for coaching on that topic can also be ways to increase ownership. Regardless of how this process happens, (and there are many creative ways to build this into the learning culture of a company), it is essential for accountability and ownership to be built in. Much more than measuring the cost of a training session, it is treating it as the investment it is.

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Readers Comments

Helena DeVries 2012/07/09 at 10:19 am

Absolutely; we need to make sure learners are accountable for their learning. But we have systems in place for that already which utilize the institution’s own processes. Effectively, we don’t reimburse the tuition costs if the employee gets below 70% in their course.

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