When it comes to learning and development, everyone has an opinion about what the best method to use is. How can you help your employees learn as effectively as possible as fast as possible? What learning tactic is better than another? Mixed in with those opinions about the best ways to help employees learn, however, tend to a variety of myths that can impact a development program’s effectiveness or even stop it from getting off the ground at all. Where does the truth about employee development lie and what myths need to be debunked before they go any further?
Common myths about employee development
There are many opinions and myths swirling out there about what makes an effective learning and development program. Let’s explore 7 of the most prominent myths you may come across.
Myth #1: Learning is only effective in a real classroom.
At one time this was believed because there simply weren’t any alternatives to classroom, in-person learning. Today, however, companies have many online e-learning options that can be just as effective without needing to meet in-person. We’ve seen in the past year how useful remote learning can be, not to mention it also helps reduce the time and cost of development. Instead of being in a classroom, employees can learn at their own rate right at their desks. It’s less disruptive to their day and can be particularly useful when there’s dense information employees need to repeat or refer back to later.
Myth #2: Employee development is too expensive.
This is probably the most common reason people fail to create an employee development plan. You can see where this myth came from, given coaches used to be flown in from across the country for intensive courses or workshops. But as we’ve already covered above, there are many ways to offer learning programs now and a lot of them are very affordable. Sure, maybe you can’t opt for that cross country flight anymore but what’s stopping your team from watching a webinar together or doing an online workshop to develop soft skills? There are many ways to offer your employees growth without breaking the bank which is a win-win for everyone.
Myth #3: Employees won’t remember much of the training anyways.
Learning styles can sometimes be a reason managers avoid training. It’s easy to say everyone learns differently so there’s no point in bringing in a development option that’s not customizable. Yes, people learn in different ways but think about all the years everyone spent in school. Humans can adapt to the material they’re being presented and remember it, even if it’s not in the most optimal form for them personally. Especially if that material is engaging, your employees are going to remember what they learned in a workshop beyond the event itself. Sustaining that knowledge, though, is up to the manager. If employees are given information without any way of using it or reviewing it, the odds of them forgetting that knowledge go up. But if they are taught something and then given learning opportunities over weeks and months to use that skill, it’s going to stick in their heads a lot longer. Ultimately how impactful your professional development opportunity will be long-term falls to the manager and how they choose to support the learning after it’s happened.
Myth #4: Providing development options means employees need help.
Managers sometimes think bringing in some employee training sends the message their team isn’t working hard enough but really the opposite is true. Everyone likes to learn something new. Developing a skill isn’t a comment on an employee’s current skill level but rather sends a message about where a company is going. Training programs build competencies and strengthen workforces for the future. Help your staff see it’s not about where the team is today but where it will be a year from now that’s driving learning objectives. Tying learning to career aspirations or professional goals can also cement the message that learning will help employees grow within a company, not push them out the door.
Myth #5: Employees will take what they’ve learned and leave.
Turnover is a big fear in any company and one reason development isn’t offered is sometimes the belief it will actually decrease employee retention. Why invest in people who will take their new skills and jump to another company where they can apply them better? This myth unfortunately says a lot more about the company than the employee. If the company is already a poor place to work, employees may take what they learn and run. But they would have left anyways in conditions like that. Instead, learning and development often keeps employees in place longer, rather than shorter, driving down turnover rates. If employees feel their employers are investing in their skill sets with an eye towards future progression, they’re not likely to leave if working conditions are good.
Myth #6: Employers should only invest in high achievers.
Another common myth is that development should only be available for the top-performing employees. The thinking is: take your all-stars and do what you can to make them even better. Now on the one hand, yes you want to make sure your top achievers feel like they are progressing and their work is being rewarded. Offering development options to these employees might even keep them with you longer. But learning and growing shouldn’t be restricted to your best people. How will your team improve if they aren’t given any tools to do so? Not to mention it’s a blow to your inclusion efforts to only have development options for specific people. Especially now with online learning providing affordable options that can be used by more people, development offerings should be accessible to your whole workforce in order to upskill everyone together.
Myth #7: Offering employees a learning budget is enough.
Many companies offer money in lieu of a formal employee development program. Often there’s a budget that HR or managers can disperse at their discretion to allow employees to find their own development options such as conferences or courses. Letting employees take charge of their own learning can be very effective but if you don’t have any sort of guidelines about what sort of options they can choose from, odds are you’ll have happy employees but no real plan to cultivate skills and create career paths in your workforce. Why not use that budget to target specific learning goals that will align to company objective or values? That way your employees are growing but they’re also working towards goals that will help the company as well.
Learning and development should always be a priority
It’s easy to get bogged down by employee development myths but don’t let them derail your efforts. Companies that offer well-structured and thought-out development programs see an increase in employee engagement, a boost to their company culture, and longer tenures for their workers. Everyone likes to feel like their learning and progressing, whether that’s through professional or personal development. Providing those opportunities to your teams can help current employees grow and prepare for future challenges. Employees want to improve and companies that take those needs seriously find themselves building a loyal, capable workforce.