In today’s business world, an employer looking to hire must start thinking like the coach of a sports team — a coach like Mike Babcock, famous for coaching the Detroit Red Wings, two Canadian Gold Medal Winning Olympic Hockey teams, and the Toronto Maple Leafs, selects players not only for their existing skills and knowledge of the game, but also for their potential to learn and grow those skills. Babcock is well known for developing talent: a good coach knows that new players aren’t fully formed when they come to a team, they are also open and willing to learn new styles of play, or new strategies to enhance their game. Developing players and expanding talent is as much of a coach’s job as deciding who is going to be on the ice, just like how it’s as important for a manager to develop learning possibilities for their team, as it is hire the members of their team in the first place.
The coach-to-player relationship is a give and take; players offer their skills and passion, and coaches offer guidance and tools to develop those skills. Today’s employees are rapidly adapting this give and take philosophy to the business world, and if employers want to hire — and keep — the best talent, they’ll have to get on the same page.
In order to retain top employees, employers can no longer look solely at what skills these team members bring to the table — they must also consider how they can train and develop that person within the company.
I could sit here and tell you why investing in employee training is important, but it’s much easier to let the employees tell you themselves. The Harvard Business Review surveyed 20,000 top talent hires around the world, and found alarming figures for organizations and businesses everywhere. Companies across the country have become a revolving door for top talent.
According to HBR survey, 1 in 4 hires starts a job with the intention to leave it within their first year (talk about commitment issues). On top of that, 40% of hires have little confidence in their coworkers, and even less in their senior team (looking at you, management). The survey overwhelmingly showed that new candidates don’t come in with the default attitude of enthusiasm. Rather, management teams must cultivate employee engagement and loyalty — offering the opportunity for professional development is an excellent way to do that.
How do you go about showing talented candidates that you’ll invest in their professional growth? Hint: your job posting is a great place to start. Use your recruitment strategies and job ads to emphasize the value your company puts on training and professional development. In an environment where top candidates are courted by a number of large, appealing companies, you can highlight training as a competitive advantage that sets your business apart.
While candidates may have different individual goals, a study showcased by the Society for Human Resource Management found that overwhelmingly, people of all backgrounds desire the opportunity for professional development and growth. In fact, the opportunity for learning trumped more conventional factors, such as compensation and benefits.
The moral of this story? Training and learning is an employer’s most valuable asset — and one that must be emphasized in the recruitment stage. One easy way to do this is by framing your postings as “job ads,” rather than “job descriptions.” Set aside the monotony of explaining your corporate hierarchy, and instead use a job posting to promote your company culture, benefits plan, and yes, opportunities for training. Tell the top players why they should want to play on your team.
Once an employee is hired, managers must follow through on the promise of learning. Training should begin on a new hire’s very first day. This may seem obvious to some managers — how can you expect a new hire to contribute, if they don’t know what they’re expected to do?
Unfortunately, it’s not obvious to all employers. One-fifth of companies have no formal onboarding process, meaning the initial training of hires happens informally, or not at all. Considering that more than 33% of employees decide whether they’ll stay with a company within their first week of work — that’s right, the first week — it’s important that managers engage staff in training early, in order to make a lasting positive impression.
Learning must be an ongoing process. Beyond the recruitment and new hire stage, the most effective employers understand that training should not be done on an ad hoc basis.
Each employee should be given the opportunity to create (or help create) a learning strategy that fits within the corporate goals of your company. This serves a dual purpose: the employee will learn learn new skills, while you will ensure they can apply that knowledge to be more effective and productive on the job. The best employers allocate time and money for employee learning, and are transparent about those guidelines.
There are several levels of training and learning within a workplace — you should offer your employees opportunities for learning both on and off the job.
On the job training involves cost effective learning opportunities undertaken as part of a team member’s everyday work. This may take the form of job rotations, stretch assignments, or mentorship programs. Shifting employees’ daily responsibilities is a good way to keep them nimble, teaches them new skills, and allows them to gain a better appreciation and understanding of the work their colleagues do. Focusing a mentorship program on coaching and constructive feedback will show staff areas of improvement, build relationships, and empower coworkers to support one another.
Then there’s off the job training — and we don’t mean learning employees do on their own, outside of work. Off the job training involves opportunities provided by the employer, in which team members set aside their work for a set period of time, in order to learn. Seminars and workshops are great ways for a large group of employees to gain a new, focused skill all at the same time — plus, this takes some of the responsibility of training off of senior staff members.
In the long-term, off the job training is seen as more sustainable, according to Josh Bersin, an HR contributor to Forbes. Bersin says the most effective employers are also ones who have stopped looking at these activities as strictly training; and instead take on a mindset of learning.
The mental shift from training to learning indicates that a company is making a long-term investment in an employee’s education. It also means professional development is happening all the time, through an environment of performance reviews, regular employee feedback, and a consideration of clients and customers who will be affected by newly gleaned skills.
Every employer should strive to one day accomplish this level of ongoing training: one that benefits the employee, the employer, and the people you’re both hoping to serve.
Evidence tells us that American companies are moving in the right direction. A training industry report showed that in 2015, employers provided an average of 53.8 hours of training per employee, 13 hours more than the previous year. Based on the competitive advantage that training and learning offers to employees and employers alike, this number will likely continue to rise. An effective training and learning program not only gets top players in the door, but will also keep them there for the years ahead.