Hopefully it’s a sign of improving times for the economy, but two recent reports found that spending is on the increase for employee learning and development. The American Society for Training and Development says that US organizations spent more than $170 billion on training in 2010, which represents a spend rate in excess of $1,200 per employee. Another report, Bersin & Associates’ Corporate Learning Factbook 2012, puts the figure at a more conservative $800 per employee in 2011.
Both reports highlight the increased spend as positive signs for the economy, saying that the trends indicate that employers see their employees as important factors towards their growth.
As we continue to develop eLearning content focused on the ethics & compliance space, I wasn’t really surprised by the findings of the report. In the not-too-distant past, dollars devoted to training and awareness, including employee ethics & compliance training, were often some of the first funds to be cut when budgets got tight. But, as recent reports of fraud and corporate misconduct have increased, the need to mitigate risk – through training – has increased, too. Now, the consequence of not training (or mediocre or ineffective training) translates not only into missed opportunities, but also vulnerability and exposure to serious loss.
Many organizations recognize that knowledgeable employees are in a position to identify risks to the organization and, properly educated, can report violations of policy and the law. Reports of violations often rise following training events as employees become aware of their organization’s standards and better understand how to support them. Organizations are subject to complex legal requirements and employees must be educated about them to avoid inadvertent violations and recognize circumstances in which they need to seek guidance. Training dollars are not just a budget line item, but an important investment in corporate stability, growth and future success.
I hope that HR executives take a look at these findings and realize that training should be built to fit a company’s corporate culture – not the other way around. And the fact is that traditional training methods are typically not flexible enough to 1) meet a wide cross-section of employee needs, and 2) reflect the specific pain points each company faces.
eLearning, and for that matter, mobile learning, offer fresh options because training can be delivered to employees at a time and place that works for them. Another very interesting tidbit touched upon in the Bersin report: it says that training that is on-demand, available anytime and anywhere, is also coming in vogue, what Bersin calls “bite-sized learning on a continuous basis.”
If done well, it can engage, not just educate, and resonate with all kinds of learners (visual, auditory and sensory). And if training is less of a chore and more of an experience, it will arm the employee (and the company) with the tools needed to stay in compliance (and off the front page). Not all learning and development need be delivered as formal training. Organizations should look to augment their efforts with other forms of communication designed to sustain awareness and reinforce key points over time.