The rise of mobile devices, the increasing popularity of remote work, shifts in financial priorities (i.e., more financial independence) and the overall takeover of younger generations (yes, I’m talking about Millennials and Gen Z) have likely made it challenging for you to attract, train and retain your employees. This begs the question: Is there anything you can do to help? I’m glad you asked. In 2022, employee training is the best way to navigate these challenges and come out on top.What You Need to Know to Implement Effective Employee Training Programs
The workplace went unchanged for centuries. For the majority of the employed, they got a steady diet of 9 to 5 at the same company. Expectations were clear and goals rarely changed. This is an outlandish thought now, but this MO worked as it met the general population’s needs.
That’s no longer the case. Today’s workforce looks significantly different.
Characteristics of the Modern Workplace
- Millennials and Gen Z dominate the workforce as older generations retire.
- Just-in-time (JIT) staffing (i.e., working with agencies to provide them with the right amount of temporary labor to cover their current needs) is becoming necessary to meet a rapidly changing landscape.
- The “gig economy” has gone mainstream.
- More people are working remotely.
Let’s break each of these characteristics down and understand why they’re critical to getting an employee training program right.
Younger Generates Dominate the Workplace
According to Pew Research Center, Millennials (people born between 1981 and 1996) have passed Gen Xers (people born between the mid-1960s and the early-1980s) and Baby Boomers (people born between 1946 and 1964) as the largest generation in the U.S and subsequently, the largest portion of today’s labor market.
As a result, your approach to fostering a healthy workplace will rely on meeting their needs and preferences, which are likely different from those of earlier generations.
What Do Millennials and Gen Z Want From an Employer?
- The opportunity to learn and grow
- The opportunity to advance in their careers
- Interesting and engaging work
See the pattern? The next wave of employees prioritizes the opportunity to learn and advance their careers more than they do a bigger paycheck. Millennials and Gen. Z workers want to grow with a clear and attainable career path. Said another way, they want you to train them and show them they’re more than just a number. They don’t just want a raise.
Filling Roles “Just in Time”
In a fast-paced world, just-in-time staffing helps you move quickly and efficiently while not introducing a ton of risk. Just-in-time staffing is a “pull-based” model, meaning that it allows you to hire based on your actual demand instead of estimated demand that may or may not materialize. This gives you access to people who meet your exact needs for however long you want.
While this type of hiring has its benefits, it means that you’ll constantly be spinning in a revolving door of new hires. After a just-in-time worker finishes their project, there’s no guarantee they’ll work with you again. If that’s the case, you’ll have to find a replacement. Not only does this create a perpetual onboarding process, but given the short and time-sensitive nature of their roles, onboarding must happen quickly. You likely won’t have time to take these employees through the same onboarding process as you do FTEs.
The Growing Gig Economy
A proliferation of app and on-demand platforms — combined with the ease of communication and networking in today’s connected world — has made it easier than ever for freelancers to market their services and work independently. This is why the gig economy is flourishing.
As such, your employee training program must meet their immediate needs. For example, since the gig economy runs on mobile technology, you must make sure you optimize your content for various screen sizes. Given these peoples’ on-the-go nature, it also has to be accessible anywhere and anytime they need it.
The Rise of Remote Work
Today, an increasing number of people telecommute. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 24% of U.S. employees work from home, with the largest share of which comes from professionals in management, business and financial operations. Global Workplace Analytics, meanwhile, estimates that 25-30% of the workforce will work from home for several days a week by the end of the year.
Remote work presents a fair share of advantages such as reduced facility costs, a more casual work environment for employees and fewer absences. But it also presents logistical challenges.
How do you keep someone engaged in their work when they’re not physically present? How do you unify a geographically scattered staff? How do you develop employees when they’re on the other side of the country? Your approach to employee training must account for all of these factors.
Why This Matters
As the elements of the changing workforce spread into various roles, regions and industries, pressure will mount for you to meet these unique requirements. To remain relevant and preserve a competitive edge, you’ll have to adapt.
But you shouldn’t let fear of falling behind be your primary motivator. Instead, focus on the benefits. Evolving can make your company leaner and more agile, able to respond to change quickly and allocate more resources toward impactful investments with strategic value. The sooner you get in sync with the changing work landscape, the sooner you can become the kind of streamlined business that captures growth opportunities before anyone else on the market.
Furthermore, you’ll also get an edge on the competition for promising young talent. Millennials with bright ideas and sharp skills are pouring into the labor market. Showing them that you’re committed to their growth will position you well to bring them into the fold.
And while many managers view remote work and contract hires as a headache, workers increasingly expect this flexibility. That all-star freelance graphic designer you work with on a project-by-project basis? They may never have reached out if you posted a full-time offer, but the gig economy and remote workers make it possible to connect with a larger pool of professionals.
Some aspects of this new workforce also carry unexpected benefits. For example, while it’s true that a remote, nationwide team can be harder to coordinate and integrate, it can also open fresh possibilities of collaboration and creativity. When your team spans the globe, you get a richer, more profound mixture of perspectives and worldviews to produce more innovative solutions and better results.
Succeeding With Employee Training in 2022
Unsurprisingly, the transition to the new normal hasn’t been easy for some companies. This is a radically new employment environment that creates pain points for everyone involved in the ongoing development of employees. But there are steps you can take to ensure your workforce training program succeeds with flying colors in 2022.
- Bringing Models Up to Date: Past approaches to training and management weren’t designed with the modern workforce in mind; they were built for the workplace as we’ve known it for decades. You can’t use the training program you’ve used for 20 years for your gig workers or communicate with telecommuters the same way you do with long-time employees who work 9 to 5 in your headquarters. New problems call for agile solutions custom-built for their environment and unique role.
- Oversight: With a staff made up of so many different work arrangements, it’s easy for you to lose control. Particularly with remote work, strong supervisory and project management processes are necessary to ensure everyone is engaged and invested in their work. Don’t confuse this with micromanagement; this means great leadership and good communication are key.
- Making Development Matter: Learning for the sake of learning isn’t valuable for most people. If you want growth-hungry employees to be satisfied with their development, you have to offer training that expands their horizons in meaningful ways and gives them skills they can use to advance their careers.
- Squeezing Training Into New Places: Blocking out an afternoon when your employees can get together for an in-person training session is much harder when your team isn’t solely comprised of full-time employees who work at your office. The new reality is finding ways to offer high-quality education in shorter timeframes and unconventional work scenarios.
- Creating Meaning: Not every task can be glamorous. You need to make sure your employees feel their daily individual contributions are appreciated and their voices are heard.
Powering Your Employee Training Program With an LMS
As you transition to your new way of working, you’ll want to research other organizations’ best practices and consult with stakeholders to create a custom strategy for modernizing your operations. But no matter your circumstances, that strategy will have to include a few components:
First, you’ll need an advanced learning management system (LMS) that can unify an eclectic staff and help every employee — regardless of their roles — learn and grow. Your workforce training program must be cyclical and have an iterative flow where you create deliverables, evaluate them and then evolve. By constantly assessing your program, you can identify problems, troubleshoot early and improve in the best interest of your employees. In the absolute simplest of terms, you need to keep the door open for feedback.
You’ll also want to invest in an LMS with flexible course authoring. Stock online courses are not sufficiently versatile for the enormous range of learning needs today. Current authoring tools are straightforward to use, with features that make it simple to build content for any purpose you can imagine.
Once you have those tools, the next step is to develop robust needs analysis processes to figure out what training to create. You should conduct systematic research of skill gaps, career goals (both short- and long-term) and areas for potential improvement.
The combination of insights from your needs analysis and your course authoring technology will help you create optimal learning experiences for each sub-group within your team. You can create a compact mini-orientation for gig workers, just-in-time training sessions that provide efficient learning for specific situations or a fully-fledged learning path for your full-time staff.
Beyond traditional sit-down sessions that provide a broad overview of a topic, you can offer contextual learning by creating courses that give employees a frame of reference on a topic about their role. Or you could embed training into your workflows to break up the learning for trainees and let them apply what they learn far faster.
Finally, make the most of the new technology that millennials know inside and out by creating mobile- and tablet-accessible courses so they can take their learning on the go.