Thursday, January 29, 2009

Should employees choose their own training?

Yesterday, Jim Giuliano at HR Morning shared one of his best HR management ideas: let employees find and choose their own training.

The idea became a winning solution to one company’s struggle to find new employee training ideas with limited resources, a common challenge many small companies face.

You can read the longer version at HR Morning, but here’s the basic story:
  • During the recruiting process, people are told that the company is dedicated to continual learning and development, using training to reach career goals.
  • Supervisors and HR don’t have enough time to come up with new training ideas relevant to the goals of the employee and company.
  • The company can’t afford to hire a professional training coordinator.

Solution: Turn employees into their own training coordinators.

Employees find and choose their own training, under two conditions:
  1. They must prove that the training correlates with their jobs and careers.
  2. The cost of the training program must be justified (increased cost, increased benefit).

The company tried out the program for one year on an experimental basis with only a few employees.

Results were mixed: “Not all employees embraced the idea - some still wanted the supervisor to pick the training. But we found that the ones who did take control of their training often also happened to be our most motivated, top performers.”

Why it’s a great idea:
  • It improves employee engagement by giving them the freedom to choose which areas they would like to improve on.
  • It saves supervisors and HR time by having employees take over the task of researching new training ideas.

But what do you think?

Are you struggling with finding new ideas for employee training and think a program like this could work at your company? Should employees choose their own training? Could it cause any problems?


Dan Erwin said...

Yes and no. No question that employees should have some input into their training. On the other hand, to a significant degree, training should be strategically significant for the organization. Managers will say that "we're paying for this, so we should have some say." That makes sense to me. Furthermore, an effective manager may have more insights into an employee's need that that employee herself. And that's another reason for no employee to have the complete say about his/her training.

I'd want my manager to have input into my training, whether he or she thought they should or not. I don't really believe that managers have no ideas about a subordinate's training needs. And I wouldn't let them cop out on the issue if they told me they didn't care or didn't know what was

The issues are nuanced and contextual. What does this situation require, what do I need, and where is the overlap?

Greg Friese, MS, NREMT-P said...

For EMTs and Paramedics continuing education education is a requirement for re-licensure and re-certification. Often times the path of least resistance (time, cost, and or effort) is chosen to meet minimal requirements. The choice might be made by the employer or the employee. Scheduling training within work schedules is also quite difficult.

Nonetheless, empowering employees to select continuing education requirements that meet their job needs is an outstanding idea.

I wonder if there is a connection between effort to find training to enhance job performance and actual job performance? An employee that selects the path of more difficult resistance is probably a better employee.

Gregg Van Citters said...

Ideally, this is an employee-driven initiative with supervisory input and direction. For example, in a regulated environment, certain training is mandated and the supervisor has to assign those items. However, the employee should drive his/her own development, with the supervisor helping provide the reality check that ensures alignment with business goals. And this should be an important topic in regular meetings, not just the annual review.

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