In recent years many of the professional sectors we recruit for have felt the after effects of a past failure to invest in training and development. Employers that cut back on training during the recession were faced with a chronic shortage of skilled workers available to capitalise on opportunities once the economy picked up again. Failure to invest in learning has long-lasting consequences, and in sectors like construction employers are still playing catch up to find the skills lost.
Our research has shown repeatedly that opportunities for learning and development are key priorities for professionals when considering a new job. It’s something most candidates ask about at interview, and that most employers claim to offer their employees.
Unfortunately in some cases training can become a reduced priority in a busy work environment. Research we carried out last year found that while 70% of employers offer some form of training, under 40% of employees said they actually receive it. Naturally, if employees feel their careers are stalling due to lack of development they are more likely to leave their job, half of employees surveyed for our Hays UK Salary & Recruiting Trends report said lack of career progression was their reason for moving jobs.
So as a shortfall in learning and development activity has consequences for business performance, attraction and retention of employees, how can you, as a leader, encourage a continual and effective approach to learning within your team or organisation?
Target your approach
Look closely at the areas of skill shortages within your organisation, and consider where you prioritise your resource. What are the skills gaps now, and will they be the same in 12 months or 5 years? Try not to focus too much on your challenges right now at the expense of future-proofing your workforce. Ensure line managers have sight of the strategic priorities of the organisation to align their staff development with your bigger picture view.
Training doesn’t always have to mean spending a whole day in a meeting room. Think about the way your employees work and how you can fit training around them. At Hays we use “lunch and learn” sessions for short training sessions to upskill employees alongside a mix of classroom, on-the-job and one-to-one coaching to suit individual needs. New technology, whether cloud-based e-learning or virtual reality simulations, can help break down the obstacles to training. Consider what best suits your employees, and tailor your offering to the different groups within your team or organisation.
Recognise your experts
Recognise that experts don’t have to come from outside your organisation. Identify your pockets of expertise - the go-to person for questions on a new piece of technology, the best presenters, your top salespeople – and consider how they can help other employees follow in their footsteps. Whether through informal training, mentoring or knowledge sharing you can simultaneously recognise and reward these experts and create learning opportunities for the rest of your employees.
Make learning accessible
To ensure that training is not something that new starters go through and never think of again, identify training needs and opportunities at all levels of the organisation. Make open learning resources visible and accessible, and be ready to adapt to new methods and technology to support learning. Some companies offer employees dedicated time to spend on self-directed development, such as hackathons and side-projects, giving employees more ownership of their learning.
Be a role model
The most successful people never stop learning. Some of the biggest names in business are the most intellectually curious people out there, and the first to admit where they lack expertise and do something about it. Show your employees that you take your own learning and development seriously, and inspire your people managers to do the same and show their staff that spending time on their development is encouraged.
By setting a good example, and being open to more flexible approaches to training, you can promote a learning culture in your organisation.
Our training and development is something we are extremely proud of at Hays, and we provide on-going training to our employees throughout their career at Hays: from interns to senior leadership programmes for our most senior Directors. Find out more about our approach to training and development at Hays.
About this author
Nigel is Regional Managing Director for Hays UK & Ireland and EMEA, and Chairman of Asia Pacific. He joined Hays UK in 1988 as a trainee consultant. By 1997, he was Managing Director of Hays Australia, and consequently expanded operations to New Zealand, Hong Kong, China, Japan, Singapore and Malaysia. In 2006, he was appointed Managing Director of Asia Pacific. He became UK & Ireland Managing Director and Chairman of the Asia Pacific business in 2012. In 2018 Nigel was appointed Regional Managing Director for Hays UK & Ireland and EMEA, and retains his position as Chairman of Asia Pacific.