Everyone has sat through boring workplace training sessions that seem like a waste of time and are a drain on employees. On the other side, many people have attended useful and lively trainings where they actually walk away engaged and educated, ready to apply what they’ve learned to their jobs. How can we make every training useful and engaging? That’s a question many companies face. Each week I talk with top executives, authors, and professors on my podcast, The Future of Work Podcast. Many of my guests are experts in training and learning and have shared their thoughts on how we can improve workplace training in the future.
Michael Bungay Stanier is the founder and senior partner of Box of Crayons, a company that helps organizations work better. He believes that in order to properly train employees, managers need to act like coaches. Michael says coaches need to stay curious by asking the right questions of their employees, including open-ended questions like “What’s on your mind?”, “What is the real challenge for you?”, and “How can I help?”. In order to provide the right training and coaching resources, managers need to know the challenges and needs of employees. Much of that comes from creating a culture where employees feel safe to share. Coaching as training takes practice for managers and employees, but it can lead to positive change throughout the organization and employees who are better equipped to do their jobs.
According to John Hass, Chairman, President, and CEO of Rosetta Stone, everyone needs to be involved in lifelong learning. The same principle can be applied to workplace training—employees should always be learning new skills and keeping up with technology. John is a big believer in personalized learning and using technology to allow students and employees to learn at their own pace. In order to take advantage of new technology and use it properly in the workplace, we have to broaden our skillsets and improve our job flexibility. Organizations can support that by providing training opportunities for employees to learn new, applicable skills.
Cindy Parnell is the Executive Director at Arizona State University Career and Professional Development Services. She sees many organizations that partner with ASU to invest in their future workforce. In other words, training starts early—before employees are even hired—to make sure students and future professionals are developing skills the organization needs. Employers often visit classrooms and student groups to share tips on what skills are important, how to develop soft skills, and how to have a successful interview. Cindy says that the companies that are involved in training students end up having prepared employees who are ready to get to work.
Connections between employers and universities was also a common thread for David Deming, professor of Public Policy, Education, and Economics at Harvard. He says a problem facing employees and organizations today is that companies don’t want to invest the time and resources to train new employees who are just going to leave a short time later. He suggests that there needs to be better connections between universities and companies to fill in the gaps of job training. While much of what is learned in college is useful, most employees still need some type of on-the-job training to give them the more practical skills. David encourages organizations to embrace training and break out of the mold of the typical employee they hire. By taking a chance on someone with a slightly unconventional background, they could end up finding a great fit for the company.
Monica Pool Knox, Head of Global Talent Management at Microsoft Enterprises, says that both employees and employers need to be involved in training. Employees want different skills and experiences than what have traditionally been offered, so employers need to branch out with the types of training they offer. A lot of that revolves around new technology. Individuals and employers should both be involved in staying on top of new technology and seeing what emerging skills are needed in the market. Embracing diversity in teams and trainings to put employees with different backgrounds together can help everyone learn new skills and be exposed to new points of view.
There are a lot of approaches to workplace training, but these thought leaders’ suggestions and advice are powerful to any employee or employer looking to improve their learning and training routines.
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