Before you read this article, try an experiment:

Go to Google (or your favorite search engine) and type in “why employees love training.” Take a quick scroll through the results. Now type in “why employees hate training.” Notice the difference? Pages upon pages of articles about why people hate training, but on the love side, nada. Only advice on how to get employees to love your training. The assumption is very clearly that they don’t love it already.

The conundrum here is that employees want training. For a 2013 CareerBuilder survey, 35% of respondents said that increased training and learning opportunities would motivate them to stay with a company. Training helps employees do their jobs better, it helps them fit better into the company, and it provides the knowledge and skills they need for advancement. So why do they hate it?

The disconnect may be due to the fact that while companies are providing training, they aren’t providing the training their employees want. Below are six things employees want from training programs.

Hands-on, on-the-job training

  • Do you offer training on a once-yearly basis?
  • Do those training courses consist of long lectures?
  • Do you assign user manuals as reading material?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you are not providing the training your employees want. They want hands-on, on-the-job training that they can apply to their work. If you won’t do it for your employees, do it for yourself. Myriad studies have shown the advantage of hands-on training compared to lecture-based training.

Important, relevant training

No one wants to feel like they’re wasting their time — not you, not your boss, and not your employees. But training is often perceived as a waste of time. This idea has two main sources:

  1. Managers don’t treat training as important. Either they don’t attend training themselves, or they grumble about their team spending time on training, or both.
  2. The training provided isn’t relevant to employees’ jobs. Training needs to be relevant to people’s work. If it isn’t, it feels like wasted time. Training departments often take a shotgun approach, providing the same training to everyone. Instead, find ways to more effectively engage your audience by delivering the right training to the right employees at the right time. For example, provide performance support resources online so that people can access the resources they need at the moment they need them.

Proactive training

Training is often viewed as a punishment. This is an unfortunate perspective, but not necessarily an unwarranted one. Training is often only offered in response to a problem — mistakes happen, and then training is required. This can feel very much like a punishment, especially to the people who are already doing it right.

Taking a proactive approach helps employees see training as an essential part of their work responsibilities, not just as a punishment when things go wrong.

Technology-enabled training

Employees, especially younger ones like Millennials, use technology in every single aspect of their lives. Millennials spend almost 18 hours a day consuming different types of media, and about half spend at least 4 hours a day on mobile devices. To this crowd, training that does not involve technology seems hopelessly outdated.

Emotionally engaging training

Before, I said that the search for “why employees love training” came up empty. That isn’t entirely true. There was one result that answered the question: The Top 5 Things Employees Love in Online Training Courses, by eLearningIndustry CEO Christopher Pappas.

The article includes some standard benefits of online training, for example, that it is convenient and can be accessed anytime, anywhere. But there is another aspect that is less often discussed: online training offers “emotionally centered experience[s] that help employees to connect.” Pappas notes that “characters, avatars, compelling images and graphics, [and] real world examples” are all facets of online training that employees enjoy because they provide an emotional connection.

Given the close link between emotion and memory, the importance of engaging learners emotionally can’t be overestimated.

Ongoing training and development

Finally, employees want ongoing training. It isn’t enough just to train employees to do the jobs they have. You need to provide development opportunities for employees to advance their careers.

Career development is the key to retaining talent in your organization. A 2012 study in Harvard Business Review found that there was a gap between the training young managers expected and what they received. As a result of this “expectation gap,” 75% of young managers actively looked for jobs elsewhere, and 95% left the companies just over two years after they were hired. The study authors noted: “Employers are understandably reluctant to make big investments in workers who might not stay long. But this creates a vicious circle: Companies won’t train workers because they might leave, and workers leave because they don’t get training.”

As you read this list, be honest. Are your training programs active and proactive? Are they emotionally engaging? Do they take advantage of technology and provide opportunities for development? If not, your organization may also be suffering from an “expectation gap,” and this gap is likely harming your ability to attract, develop, and maintain the talent you need.

Featured image by Alex Proimos [Creative Commons]

Copyright Bryant Nielson. All Rights Reserved.