Way back in January, when 2020 still looked like it would roll out as just another ordinary year, a writer at Inc. magazine set out to answer the question, why should you train your employees?
The obvious answer was to have well-trained employees. But there was another, more employee-centric reason to upskill: engagement. People want development. “The lack of development opportunities,” wrote the Inc. author commenting on education’s growing place as a workforce priority, “may dampen motivation for employees.”
The latter – motivation – is arguably even more important now.
Consider the time we’re living in.
Technology has surged forward. People worried about technological advances in 2019 were looking at evolution way off into the future. In 2020, they’re worried about tomorrow. “In just a few months’ time,” reads a McKinsey study, “the COVID-19 crisis has brought about years of change in the way companies in all sectors and regions do business.”
Advances have upended the job market. Those rapid speed technological advances didn’t come without costs, namely to positions -- particularly on frontlines and in service industries. More ominous for employees, writes the New York Times, “Old jobs may not be coming back.”
Combined with furloughs and economic worries, it isn’t exactly a recipe for employee confidence – or productivity. Powerlessness – the kind that comes with not knowing if your future is secure – makes it hard to think, let alone work. Training and education opportunities, on the other hand, combat powerlessness; they impart some control; they allow employees to answer the question, “How can I make sure my skills stay relevant?” and so support things like confidence and safety that stoke productivity and creativity.
It should surprise no one that employees in the current era want those education benefits. In a study we did this summer, roughly three quarters of employees told us they think employers should be offering education benefits right now; roughly the same number said employees without them are at a disadvantage.
Just as important, extending development opportunities isn’t just for employees; employers benefit, too. Enhanced skills (see “better trained employees,” above) is certainly one perk; loyalty is another. That may seem less important now that we’ve moved momentarily away from the aggressive talent wars of yore. But remember, nothing lasts forever. And as the year we’d all like to forget moves into our review mirror, employees will remember the employers who gave them a hand.
For those worried newly skilled employees could create a future turnover problem – don’t. Could all that training inspire people to seek greener pastures when the talent tide turns? Sure. But they probably won’t – not when they can feel confident about growing their careers with you. That’s one of the super powers of a learning culture.
People will eventually have more choices. But when that time comes, “Training workers,” wrote Inc., “makes your company the greener pasture.”