Published on 2012/09/12

Employee Training: Enabling Employees to Succeed or Enabling Their Job Search?

Ongoing learning sometimes provides an employee with a pathway to a new career, but the value of the knowledge that employee brings back to the office should be more than worth the cost for employers.

It would be nice to believe that every company has a fully thought out career path for each and every employee along with the mentoring, training, and other tools required for the employee to be successful at each step on the way.

In reality, people’s careers move in many unexpected ways based on the employees’ motivation and the company’s needs. This can result in an excellent employee who has a skill mismatch to what is believed to be needed for the current job at the current time—and results in a training/learning requirement. Most organizations would easily recognize that it is the employer’s responsibility to match the employee with the appropriate training, at the company’s expense, to meet this training need.

However, when a company encourages their employees to treat training as a lifelong learning initiative – who can predict what each employee believes is the learning path to their career goals? It becomes important for the employee and employer to become partners in the training process.

Employees often ask me if they can take a specific course, or attend a particular conference and the most important question that an employee usually asks is, “Will Destiny reimburse me?”

As a company that is striving to support the Lifelong Learning Marketplace, it is very difficult for me to say no to someone who has taken the initiative to ask me this question. However, many people (myself included) are often concerned about the employee’s motivation. Are they looking to improve their skills to make themselves more marketable to other companies? Are they looking to take a course during working hours to take some additional time off work? How accountable is the employee to attend the actual conference sessions?

While these questions may spring to mind on occasion, they are ultimately insignificant in the decision-making process. What I have found is that the experience itself of taking additional training is significant and directly contributes to employee retention and job satisfaction.

When looking at the request, I will invariably ask the employee to write me up a small proposal answering the following questions:

  • “How will this training affect your current projects or role?”
  • “Is this training part of a larger learning goal (i.e. a certification or degree)?”
  • “Can you describe how you researched this course or education provider to demonstrate that the content is useful and cost effective?”
  • “Are you willing to present to your peers a summary of the key learning outcomes from this training?”

This is simply a pragmatic approach ensuring that the employee is not just looking to take any training, but training that provides value to them, and hopefully, the company. Typically, we have found that there are always two practical outcomes from training that immediately benefit the company regardless of the specific request. The first is that training almost always allows work experience to be partnered with best practices or formal methodology. It allows the employee to match up what they are doing with what; perhaps, they should be doing based on a specific body of knowledge. The second, and by far, the most enjoyable outcome of the process is seeing an employee come back to work and present one of three outcomes:

  1. “Watch what I learned how to do”
  2. “I’ve validated how we are doing things”
  3. “We need to change what we are doing”

Any of these responses can be incredibly valuable to an organization and it is important for a company to act and respond positively to any of them – and that’s the simple reason for Destiny to support an employees’ training request.

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Readers Comments

Neville Lansing 2012/09/12 at 9:12 am

I think this is always going to be one of those areas that we in HR don’t like, but are forced to deal with. It’s vital for us to keep our employees ahead of the changes happening around them; it’s no use to anyone to have an our-of-date workforce. However, that very learning gives them a huge leg-up when it comes to finding new work.

Elle Peterson 2012/09/12 at 11:33 am

One idea that’s been thrown around our office is developing a contract that goes along with learning arrangements.

This is a really rough and under-developed concept, but basically if the company pays for employee X to take a course, that employee works for us for the next five years. Something like what the army does when it pays for soldiers’ higher education.

What do you think?

    Peter DeVries | Chief Operating Officer, Destiny Solutions 2012/09/26 at 7:30 am

    I think that this might work if an employee is taking a large certificate and/or degree that requires significant up front investment. Typically however, while an employee may be pursuing a certificate, the courses are taken on an irregular/on-demand schedule so there is no ‘up front’ investment to leverage into some type of contractual arrangement

Jason Silberman 2013/07/21 at 6:04 am

It’s about providing employees with a sense of ownership and empowerment. Yes, training empowers employees, and no, not everyone is going to stay in your company forever. But the motivated and engaged employees which benefit from strong training (and I would add the importance of performance support as well) will perform more successfully and energetically.

Jason

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