One-size-fits-all professional development never really fits all of the different "sizes" of workers in an organization. Seniority levels, job roles, locations—and even local culture—all figure into personalizing learning so that the lessons stick. So, too, do employee preferences. For example, according to LinkedIn's recent Workplace Learning Report, while 58 percent of employees prefer to learn at their own pace, 49 percent prefer to learn at the point of need.
For the HR executives responsible for training employees and professional development planning, meeting those diverse needs can be challenging. We asked business leaders around the world for their ideas on how they approach training for workers across levels and teams, as well as borders and cultures. From "bite-sized" training for millennials to doing stints at partner businesses, HR and training leaders are getting creative to ensure professional development matches the ways workers approach their jobs.
Training in Bite-Sized Portions
Samuel Johns is human resources manager at the Taipei, Taiwan offices of resume builder software company Resume Genius. He's implemented what he calls "bite-sized training" to appeal to younger workers.
"Many Gen Z and millennial workers are at their most productive working in short bursts, switching from one task to another as their attention shifts," Johns says. Instead of all-day training, he breaks it down into pieces.
"For instance, they might spend five minutes watching an educational video while eating breakfast," Johns says. "Then after lunch, they can review the corresponding written content. Finally, before going home, they can try their hand at some quizzes to consolidate their newly acquired knowledge."
In addition to the quick-hit nature of the training, Johns also facilitates learning as a group. "Taiwanese society is less individualistic than American and European society," Johns says. "While my North American and European colleagues are happy to learn independently, our Taiwanese colleagues like to take their smartphones and laptops, find an empty meeting room, and work on learning tasks together."
Friendly Competition Through Gamification
At shopping comparison website elMejorTrato.com, with offices in Central America and South America, training games are driving productivity. The company created a game called "Learn to Win," where worker progress is displayed on a leaderboard. The goal is to encourage workers to read books, listen to podcasts, or take online courses that relate to their jobs. As soon as workers complete required training classes, they're given short training tests— high scorers receive gift cards and movie tickets.
"This approach appeals especially to younger workers, thanks to the immediacy of the rewards," says Eric Anderson, elMejorTrato.com's vice president of human resources, noting that millennials are not as motivated by long-term rewards like climbing the career ladder.
"In Colombia, for example, it's typical that younger workers only stay a short time at a business," Anderson says. "They're often changing jobs for financial reasons. That's why they tend to focus their attention on short-term material rewards."
Making Workers Uncomfortable—In a Good Way
Borko Naumovski, founder of Macedonia tour company We Love Skopje, wants tour guides-in-training to think fast on their feet. Toward that end, he'll surprise them by unexpectedly turning over a tour to them on the spot.
"The usual training approach would be to quiz them on what they know," Naumovski says. "But I know from experience that it's much more important for the guides to be friendly and make people feel comfortable."
Trainee guides might be uncomfortable leading a tour when they hadn't planned to do so, "but they adapt to the situation," he says. "Dealing with people is unpredictable by itself, and one of the best ways to get used to it is to develop a tolerance for unpredictability."
Training on the Job–With a Different Company
Employees at GetVoIP, a New York-based comparison-shopping service for VoIP solutions, work frequently with telecom service providers. Reuben Yonatan, GetVoIP's CEO, encourages account executives to work on-site for a week at these companies, as way to keep their skills sharp. By working side-by-side with partners, he says, employees can better understand industry pain points.
"While it's true that a lot of the value would lie in our team members gaining more insight into the industry as a whole, and each partner in particular, there are also a few soft skills they develop — from communication skills to empathy," Yonatan says. "Being in direct, face-to-face communication with our partner-customers also forces our team to be on their 'A-Game' at all times to best represent the company."
What's applicable to your company and your employees may vary by industry, job type and and more. But across the board, using personalized learning and making training more relatable and engaging, you may find that workers are more enthusiastic about taking part. At elMejorTrato.com, for example, worker productivity went up by almost 15 percent thanks to gamification-driven training. And with the growing need for organizations to upskill their workforce in response to changes in technology—every little bit counts.
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