Digits, part of the CIPHR Group, conducted research in late 2021 that took a deeper look at the L&D opportunities on offer in UK-based organisations, with a focus on comparing employee and practitioner perceptions, ultimately forming the basis of our report — ‘Are we trained for work?’
Presenting at Europe’s leading workplace learning exhibition and conference, Learning Technologies, LMS sales manager, Andrea Matkin, alongside Digits’ head of talent, Bradley Burgoyne, took to the stage in May 2022 to demonstrate key findings from our report and pose the question of whether employees and L&D practitioners share the same outlook on workplace training opportunities.
Discover the top takeaways from this presentation by watching the recording on demand, browsing our blog for standout stats, or considering your own conclusions by downloading the report.
Click the text below the title to view the relevant chapter in our recording.
Taking stock of the challenge
We polled more than 1,000 UK employees and L&D practitioners on how learning is prioritised in their organisations, if training content is really preparing employees for work, and if learning opportunities are in tune with employees’ needs and preferences.
Nearly a third (28%) of workers said they are planning to look for a new job in the next 12 months; a further third (32%) said they haven’t decided if they will stick with their current employer or try to find a new role.
The majority (52%) of employers polled in LinkedIn Learning’s 2021 Workplace Learning report cited upskilling and reskilling as a priority, while — according to the CIPD Labour Market Outlook, autumn 2021 — only 44% of employers offered upskilling opportunities as a response to the prevalence of hard-to-fill vacancies.
L&D teams have been tasked with the ever-growing challenge of aligning employee and organisational learning objectives, but are these opportunities aligned with the needs of the employees undertaking them?
Our research suggested that nearly a third (32%) of organisations don’t offer voluntary training opportunities; that’s one in three organisations offering only the learning opportunities critical to a role, leaving little to no room for career development.
Upskilling – a type of non-mandatory training – is critical for surviving the current economic climate and competitive labour market, but only 42% of organisations offer these opportunities regularly (every six months). Our data suggest that UK organisations continue to prioritise traditional L&D areas, such as health and safety, over voluntary training.
Reskilling, for example – which many commentators and professional bodies say is critical to organisational success – is offered to only 14% of employees, according to our survey.
Only one in five (22%) employees are offered an onboarding opportunity which is the first step in creating a positive employee experience, especially for workers entering a hybrid or remote environment. If employees who lack a positive onboarding are more likely to leave an organisation, why waste the time, effort, and budget hiring top talent only to lose them because of a lack of opportunity to upskill themselves?
What do practitioners think?
Practitioner responses highlight the importance and intrinsic value of upskilling: three-quarters of respondents said they were offering upskilling opportunities, with a similar proportion purporting to offer onboarding and orientation programmes. This is misaligned with employee perceptions of only a fifth (22%) of organisations offering an onboarding programme. This begs the question: where is this mismatch of perceptions stemming from?
This might be an awareness issue – ie the employees we surveyed had not recently joined the organisation and therefore may be unaware of the current induction or onboarding programmes.
Is there a crossover?
Nearly two-thirds (57%) of practitioners think their organisation prioritises employee training opportunities, with just over a third (37%) sharing a neutral outlook and classifying their workplace learning offering as ‘average’.
Employees with a positive perception of the L&D offerings in their workplace tallied just over half (51%) of respondents, while four in 10 consider their learning opportunities to be ‘average’.
The 6% mismatch between employee and practitioner perceptions on ‘good training opportunities’ (57% practitioners vs 51% employees) was closely trailed by the 4% discrepancy in opinions of ‘poor’ learning opportunities, with 11% of workers and only 7% of practitioners sharing this outlook.
Who’s in the driving seat?
The majority (45%) of employees said that their most recent training was required by their employer, with slightly fewer (42%) saying that it was offered by their employer. Only 13% said they had requested training.
Practitioner feedback found that the largest segment (35%) said that it was most likely that an employee would instigate or request training. Will this prompt organisations to take a more critical look at the training on offer, and how it underpins their culture of learning?
It’s all relative
Are learning opportunities as useful as they could be? In terms of filling a skills/knowledge gap and helping to progress their career, a combined 65% of employees (38% and 27%, respectively) say yes, while 90% (49% and 41%) of practitioners agree.
One in four employees (25%) compared to just one in thirty-three (3%) practitioners, feel that training is a box-ticking exercise.
Is this the result of a lack of learning culture, poor communication between L&D teams and line managers, or a mismatch in the value of learning opportunities? Or are L&D teams viewing training as ‘useful’ when the inverse is true? We can’t tell from the data the exact reasons, but we can make a general assumption that if an employee is allocated a specific training objective without understanding the relevance of that content, it’ll almost certainly lead to a negative experience.
Setting up skills for success
Have you received sufficient training to successfully perform your current role? According to nearly three-quarters (73%) of employees, yes. On the surface, this is good news, but combined with the lack of focus on upskilling, we could infer that organisations are focusing on training their people for their current roles, and not looking ahead far enough to prepare them for the future.
One in four (26%) managers have never received any management training, while a further two-fifths (39%) only received management training when they first became a manager. Just a third (35%) of UK managers enjoy regular management training. If managers aren’t trained and properly supported, are they likely to support a learning culture and advocate for learning opportunities for their own staff?
It’s a matter of time
Only two-thirds (64%) of workers say they are given adequate time to complete training on the job, while over one in eight (12%) were expected to undertake training in their free time, leaving the remaining 24% to complete their training alongside their regular workload.
There was also a notable disparity between allocated time for training across full-time and part-time workers, with full-time workers bearing the brunt of completing training in tandem with their day-to-day workloads.
Give the people what they want, how they want it
Another mismatch in employee vs practitioner perceptions was highlighted when comparing the training format delivered vs preferred format. Half (50%) of organisations deliver training online, but only a third (32%) of employees prefer this.
Live training sessions are offered by 29% of organisations, with only one fifth (19%) of their workers opting for this. Most closely matched are in-person training and hands-on training, offered by 47% and 33% of organisations, and preferred by 44% and 31% of employees, respectively.
Practitioners say that over half (54%) of their organisation’s training is delivered online, while only 45% prefer it. Similarly, L&D teams say that in-person training is delivered nearly as often (52%), but 47% of practitioners would choose this method over others.
Perhaps the most closely aligned perception between employees and L&D teams in relation to preferred learning methods is hands-on training, with practitioners claiming this is the organisation’s chosen way of offering learning 34% of the time, and 28% self-selecting this format.
As the world of work continues to evolve, the need to focus on the reskilling and upskilling employees will be critical for companies to continue long-term growth and success. Every organisation will need to figure out the skills its employees possess, define the skills that are needed for the future, analyse and build a plan to bridge those gaps. Therefore, the ability for employees to learn new skills will become business critical for enabling talent development and retention in the years ahead.
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