When we think about traditional employee development programs, we think of robust learning manuals, first day job shadows and repetitive face-to-face meetings to instill company values in the new employee.
These don’t work anymore.
Today’s workforce, having grown up with the Internet at their disposal, has become accustomed receiving information and social interaction at record speeds on demand. Gone are the days of endless training manuals and peer shadowing. Today’s workforce expects concise information, right here and right now.
And some have taken notice. The $56.2 billion online learning industry is expected to double by next year. Businesses report saving at least 50 percent when they replace traditional instructor-based training with e-learning, according to the eLearning Industry.
If your company is looking to keep up, there are some elements that your current employee development initiatives must have.
1. Ongoing learning
When we speak about the modern generation entering the workforce, we must realize that this is no longer an impending change. A large portion (36 percent) of today’s workforce is already comprised of Millennial talent, and the influx is gaining momentum as the recovering economy allows Boomers who extended their career time to finally retire.
Millennials are continuous learners, according to a Kenan-Flagler study. They prefer to learn on the go and continuously seek opportunities for more information and knowledge. It’s not that previous generations weren’t as concerned with learning, but methods were more limited.
For Boomers, learning began with a trip to the library and a scroll through the rolodex. All generations from Boomers to Gen Y desire opportunities for advancement and chances to learn and grow in their jobs. Millennials, however, are the first generation to live alongside almost limitless learning tools, so they aren’t used to having any barriers that would prevent them from being cultured into continuous learners. Now that technology streamlines learning, it needs to be used in employee development programs to meet the needs of continuous learners.
To set these employees up for success, a training plan needs to be developed that outlines specific sessions they should attend to learn different job tasks. Of course, they’ll need to be able to learn other job tasks as they grow into their role at the company. Training should never be a three-day stint. When done right, it is ongoing, and the information needs to be available to employees at all times.
2. Social knowledge sharing
People learn more effectively in a one-on-one environment than from in a classroom, according to Ben Betts, author of Social Learning: Answers To Eight Crucial Questions. One-on-one learning doesn’t necessarily need to be student to teacher, or manager to employee. It can also take place between any two people, as long as one person has more knowledge and skill than the other.
In traditional training initiatives, or your current development program, a trainer will be assigned to train a new hire, and that trainer may not have all of the skills a new hire. Trainees need different training buddies who specialize in specific areas so they can learn each skill from a master of that skill.
Typically after the training is complete, the new hire is on his or her own. As can be predicted, what if questions come up and the trainer is not around? Trainees need a place to pose questions that experts will see and answer quickly, such as the way we use Q&A forums online.
3. Interactive tools
With the rise of remote offices and international talent, it is no surprise that the popularity of video chat has skyrocketed throughout the past few years, with 44 percent of people using programs like Skype, iChat and Google Talk to meet face-to-face in real-time.
As an effective tool for visual learning, video chat enables one-on-one interaction, screen sharing and even document sharing. Additional features like instant messaging enhance communication.
These features are needed in employee development programs to save new employees time in learning. Some features like instant messaging could help new hires troubleshoot problems faster by allowing them to reach out to knowledgeable employees at anywhere, anytime.
4. Shared resources
Growing up alongside search engines and mobile technology, Millennials in the workforce will need access to training resources as intuitive as performing a search online. Being able to access information from anywhere at any time is the norm for them and subtracting that norm from a job will frustrate a Millennial.
Employee development programs need an effective content management platform in which employees can search through to find the training resources they seek. For example, a trainer may have instructions for creating a report he used to explain to the trainee while demonstrating. The trainee could and should have taken notes, but there are two problems with this:
- The trainee may have been so concerned with taking notes that she didn’t watch the trainer and missed important visual steps.
- The trainee might lose the paper copy of the notes.
Instead, have company resources available on a shared content management platform that trainees can retrieve any time they need them.
5. Mobile compatibility
It’s apparent Millennials prefer to connect via different forms of technology. They use search engines for information gathering, rely on social media for email and communicating, and mobile provides instant access to these channels. Eighty-three percent of Millennials use smartphones to connect to their network, according to the 2013 Millennial Impact Report.
Employee development initiatives should hone in on Millennials’ familiarity with accessing information on mobile. Using mobile-compatible training tools will help Millennials feel more comfortable learning on the job. Just as they use mobile devices to seek answers outside of the workplace, they could use them to connect with experts and content to help them accomplish new job tasks.
As advances in Internet technology progress, employee development programs may have a rough time keeping up. But, basic implications from emerging learning trends such as the need for ongoing learning, interactive tools and mobile compatibility will remain relevant for years to come.
What are some other modern elements you could incorporate into your employee development program? Share with us in the comments below!