Industry Market Trends

How We Squander On-the-Job Training

Sep 13, 2011

Employee training is a crucial part of keeping a business competitive, but new research indicates many companies are wasting the opportunity to benefit from this powerful tool.

In addition to providing workers with professional development, training can also boost a business's competitiveness. However, many employers overlook key aspects that make a training program effective, leading to many missed opportunities.

"Training is a rite of passage for many employees and required for the certifications and knowledge needed to progress in their careers," explains. "While organizations may take the time to prepare an employee for training and budget for them to attend a learning course, most organizations still struggle to assess and support the transfer of learning from training programs into the workplace."

Much of the difficulty in implementing an effective training program stems from a lack of follow-through. Simply putting an employee through a skills development course does not guarantee that either the worker or the business will ultimately benefit from the measure. In fact, many businesses neglect the critical step between training and the actual applications of training in the workplace.

According to a recent survey from employee learning and certification firm ESI International, two-thirds of training managers believe that employees apply more than 25 percent of their training knowledge back on the job, but they have little concrete proof. Sixty percent said their primary means of measuring training effectiveness is based on anecdotal feedback or "simply a guess."

Moreover, 60 percent of survey respondents said they do not have a systematic approach for helping an employee transfer or apply training-based learning to the workplace. The majority claimed that the desire for more responsibility was the largest motivating factor for trainees, while only 20 percent cited financial rewards or other incentives.

"The study points out some striking contradictions in how well organizations think they transfer learning and the lack of proof to back up their estimate of learning transfer or on-the-job application," Raed S. Haddad, senior vice president of global delivery services at ESI, said in an announcement of the findings. "Client experience shows us that organizations often fail to establish success criteria or identify expectations for learning engagements. This is a key pre-training strategy in order to measure trainee performance against agreed upon standards."

ESI identifies several methods for the effective transfer of training skills into actual work, including: aligning training objectives with job responsibilities, incorporating real projects in the training, increasing managers' involvement before and after training and implementing feedback mechanisms, such as quarterly reviews, to measure the impact of training.

Training has become especially important in the post-recession economy, as many companies are struggling to overcome significant talent shortages. According to a survey from Manpower, 52 percent of United States employers are facing difficulty filling jobs due to lack of available talent, considerably higher than the 34 percent global average. Employers said the best strategy for filling this gap is to provide additional training and development for existing staff.

"Ultimately, the underlying reason for this gap between available talent and desired talent is simple: jobs have structurally changed over time, and the skills needed to fulfill these roles have too," Jonas Prising, ManpowerGroup's president of the Americas, said in a statement. "While talent cannot be 'manufactured' in the short term, a robust workforce strategy will ensure that companies can find the people to support their business strategy, and that employees have the opportunity to pursue meaningful career paths."

The talent shortage is particularly noticeable in the manufacturing sector, where increasingly complex manufacturing processes require higher levels of technical knowledge and computing skills, often outpacing the availability of workers skilled in these areas.

Recognizing that training is one of the key components in strengthening the manufacturing sector, as well as the broader U.S. economy, the White House recently lent its support to the Manufacturing Institute's NAM-Endorsed Skills Certification System, a series of stackable credentials that apply to all manufacturing sectors and are recognized industry-wide. The program is intended to address the deficit in manufacturing education and training.

"Manufacturers have long supported the Institute's Skills Certification System because it offers results that lead to more productivity and innovation. This systematic approach is a terrific example of what we can accomplish when job creators and educators come together," Jay Timmons, NAM president and CEO, said in a statement on the partnership. "These certified training programs build the skills valued by potential employers, and those who complete the certification have access to higher paying jobs."


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