In 2010, employers spent more on employees’ development than ever before: businesses in the United States spent $171.5 billion on employee learning in 2010, up from $125.8 billion in 2009, according to ASTD in their recent survey. Apparently, companies are seeing a benefit in investing in the development of their people and that there may be payoffs for that in terms of employee retention and improved performance.

Training can be good!

Companies need to invest in employee development

Numerous surveys are finding, however, that the levels of employee engagement are low and that many are ready to leave their present organizations should another job opportunity appear. Training may not be actually working all that well to improve results…

A Fierce, Inc., survey of more than 1,400 corporate executives, employees, and educators across industries found that poor communication between decision-makers and employees, which heavily impacts human capital ROI. Some findings include:

  • 86 percent of respondents blame lack of collaboration or ineffective communication for workplace failures; similarly, 92 percent of respondents also agree that a company’s tendency to hit or miss a deadline impacts results.
  • More than 70 percent of individuals either agree or strongly agree that a lack of CANDOR impacts the company’s ability to perform optimally.
  • More than 97 percent of those surveyed believe the lack of alignment within a team directly impacts the outcome of any given task or project.
  • 90 percent of respondents believe decision-makers should seek out other opinions before making a final decision; approximately 40 percent feel leaders and decision-makers consistently fail to do so.
  • Nearly 100 percent (99.1) prefer a workplace in which people identify and discuss issues truthfully and effectively, yet less than half said their organization’s tendency is to do so.

While ASTD’s report found that the value of a highly skilled workforce continues to rise, companies are still missing the boat when it comes to training. Training will not solve the kinds of problems mentioned above. Skill training often seems to generate results that look like this:

Even with improved training-related strengths, failures to improve the workplace and involve and engage workers will not lead to great improvements in performance

Skills are important. But what are we doing to better engage workers in workplace improvement? Businesses with highly engaged workforces have many advantages over its competitors:

• On average, they rate 86% higher with their customers and build higher levels of customer loyalty, which has many positive impacts on sales and referrals, marketing costs, etc.
• They have 70% more success in lowering employee turnover
• They are 70% more likely to have higher productivity
• They enjoy higher profitability, have better safety records and deliver greater earnings per share to their stockholders

Senior executives seem to understand that a highly skilled workforce, and the continued development of those employees, can be a strategic differentiator in today’s competitive business environment. What they seem to miss is the issue of involvement.

While the expenditure per employee increased, learning hours per employee remained the same — the amount of training is the same, but the costs have risen. My guess is that they have downsized their training departments so much that they now rely more on outside vendors, spending more for each hour of learning content used. Some other key findings include:

  • Use of technology to deliver training, especially mobile learning, continues to grow – Fortune Global 500 companies set a new high of 40.1 percent of formal learning hours used being delivered via technology-based methods.
  • Managerial and supervisory training was the most offered content (12.8 percent) followed by profession- or industry-specific content (11.3 percent), and mandatory and compliance content (10 percent).

Sounds like same old, same old, right? For zillions of years, companies chose to not involve and engage workers. This tended to be a basis of the initial formation of unions so long ago (Read Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” for a view of how things were in the workplace around the turn of the 20th century).

People were trained to do the job at hand, but they were NOT a part of the company. They were cogs to be trashed when they were broken. They did not have any workplace ownership involvement and were not treated as humabn capital. They were a cost.

Now, look at GM and Chrysler and Ford and what they are doing with a more involved workforce (and a union). They have productive, skilled, knowledgeable, involved and let me say productive people again. If we treat workers well and involve them in workplace decisions and keep them aligned toward expectations, goals and the future, we can accomplish a lot more than by simply training them to perform some task, in my opinion.

The Round Wheels are already in the Wagon!

If we focus more on Managers as Trainers, and focus more on teaching more of the existing Best Practices in the workplace to more of the people in the workplaces, and we focus more on engaging and motivating the people in the bottom half of the organization, can profit-improvement be far behind?

We should focus more attention on coaching the below-average performers to improve. They have the skills to improve, but not the support

You can see a short video presentation on this on my YouTube Site — it is about coaching the below average performer for workplace improvement:

If we’re not getting more better faster than they are getting more better faster,
then we’re getting less better or more worse.