The Reciprocal Relationship between Management and Learning

Employee learning opportunities can be crucial in retaining employees at your organization, but whose responsibility facilitates said learning? Of course, your whole organization must take some responsibility for ensuring adequate training. You may also find some employees are self-starters. However, the driving force behind learning development must be management, those on the frontline providing employees with real opportunities to progress and develop their careers. Managers are best situated to assess their employees’ learning needs, act upon their findings, and give each employee the tools they need to grow.

Research conducted by Degreed and Harvard Business Publishing Corporate Learning found that only 40% of workers agreed that their manager helps them understand what skills they need to advance. Just 17% said their managers help to set goals for developing skills. Employees want to grow through learning and enjoy their managers supporting them, but they have a disconnect. While managers may not be directly responsible for learning program development, evidence from S. Meyer’s research: Are managers important to workplace learning? states: “While managers may not deliver learning content, they can play a critical role in revisiting and reinforcing that content. A recent analysis of the available research found that, yes, managers are critical to the success of workplace training – specifically because they are in a unique position to coach their employees throughout the learning process”. Therefore, it is essential to understand how management is optimal for facilitating learning. It is also necessary to examine the underlying theories supporting the assertation that management’s involvement in employee learning produces actionable results.

Connecting Management Involvement to Learning Outcomes

Various studies support the theory that management involvement can directly lead to effective learning. The first to consider is the job-demand-control-support (JDCS) model. Do workers respond differently to learning from supervisors and colleagues? A study of job resources, discovering sources, and employee wellbeing in China published in The International Journal of Human Resource Management highlights our understanding of how employees benefit from learning from their supervisors. The study looks specifically at social support and training and finds that a high level of work-based social support means employees can depend on their supervisors and peers. This, in turn, means they can gain information and knowledge from them. Furthermore, the study found that social support was positively related to learning from supervisors and colleagues, while job training was more positively associated with learning from supervisors. 

The second critical underlying theory is the Pygmalion Effect (Livingston, 1969; Rosenthal & Jacobson, 1968). This well-known theory suggests that leader expectations can affect employee learning behaviors. The 2009 paper, Pygmalion and Employee Learning: The Role of Leader Behaviors, published in the Journal of Management, explained how managers could stimulate engagement in learning. In the same way, the early Pygmalion Effect study by Rosenthal and Jacobson found students would perform at superior levels if expectations were higher. Organizations can see the same in their employees. With managers demanding high work-based learning and a career development focus, employees are more driven to succeed.

Management’s Role in Facilitating Learning

Understanding why managers are integral to employee learning is a great starting point, but this theory must be put into action. Managers need to be proactive in their approach to employee learning. There are several practical ways to achieve this.

Adopt a Coaching Mindset

Adopting a coach’s mindset helps position management as supporting employees’ opportunities to learn. Ellinger & Bostrom’s research found learning within your organization can be enhanced through coaching behaviors in its leaders. Additional study in The Impact of Managerial Coaching on Learning Outcomes Within the Team Context: An Analysis from Hagen & Gavrilova further asserts that a significant improvement in learning occurs within teams with a “coaching” team leader. Positioning managers as coaches helps to promote learning and an organizational ethos. 

Assess Individual’s Learning Needs

Your employees have their strengths and weaknesses. Helping them build skills in relevant areas falls within management’s role. First, understand and identify what training and skill development employees may need to carry out their roles effectively. This means assessing areas where your employees excel and where training could help. This also allows managers to see the whole picture and recognize the direct benefits of training programs to suit each employee. 

Provide On-the-Job Learning Opportunities

Active learning has become crucial to many businesses’ training programs. For example, a 1997 study conducted by Sveilby found that learners only remember under 10% of what they have heard in a lecture after five days. However, when the activities involved seeing and hearing, this increased to 20%. Most crucially, 60-70% of what they practiced was remembered when learners learned by doing it themselves. On-the-job experience and the opportunity to practically employ new skills are essential for employee learning to succeed, which only managers can directly provide.

Focus on Feedback and Communication

To understand your employee’s training needs, you need to have a clear view of their work performance, skills gaps, and growth potential. Gallup research found employees who receive daily feedback from their manager are three times more likely to be engaged than those who receive feedback once a year. Open communication channels make the feedback process easier to manage and less formal. It helps your employees feel able to discuss things more efficiently. As mentioned in Harvard Business Review by executive coach Monique Valcour Ph.D., regular career conversations help your employees refine their career goals. Once they understand their goals more clearly, it is easier to discuss training opportunities. 

Why should Managers care about Employee Learning?

Employee learning is one of the most powerful tools you have to boost your business and develop its growth internally. Maximizing employee potential can only benefit your organization and create a loyal and committed workforce—managers who show commitment to employee learning foster more significant and more effective relationships with their staff. In addition, a learning culture shows it is a business priority, and it is much easier to get employees on board.

For your managers to create this culture of learning and push their employees to be their best, they need the skillset. Here at Radiant Digital, we specialize in the training of all kinds. We can help develop training focused on growing coaching mindsets within your management team. In addition, we can work with you to design, develop, and implement management learning programs to ensure your managers are perfectly positioned to encourage employee learning. Contact us today to learn more.


How to make your investment in Training and Development worth it

In 2020, an estimated 82.5 billion U.S. dollars were spent on training across the United States (Statista, 2020). Organizations today are spending more on training than they ever have in the past, as the numerous benefits provided by investing in employee training and development opportunities continue to be recognized. Yet the question remains, how much of that training being developed is genuinely translating into noticeable positive differences in employee performance?

According to the research, probably not enough. Arthur, Bennett, Stanush, and McNelly (1998) conducted a meta-analysis of skill decay studies. He reported that trainees exhibit little to no skill decay the day after, but after 1-year trainees have lost over 90% of what they learned. It's being experienced that a lack of training transfer is estimated by the level of correlation between learning scores (in training) and performance metrics (on the job). The transfer is critical because without it an organization is less likely to receive any tangible benefits from its training investments.

In the traditional sense of the word, training is most often characterized by a one-off format of instruction typically involving a classroom setting where a facilitator guides the learner through the information designated explicitly for that training session. The problem with this format is that there is no guarantee that anything taught will be retained (and applied) by the employees in attendance after the training finishes. This situation is one of the key reasons why training may not pay off, as it is not so much about the learner's abilities to retain information, but rather about the content being delivered, the method being used for delivery, and the lack of follow up within the current processes. The popular colloquialism "use it or lose it" especially holds in this situation, for one particular training session cannot be relied upon to produce noticeable and lasting results. So, what should organizations be doing differently when it comes to training their employees if they want to see an actual return on their investment? The answer is providing ongoing training opportunities instead. 

The graphic below based on the Continuous Learning Model shows that even though traditional training does initially provide some level of understanding, retained knowledge will steadily decrease over time. Meanwhile, learning remains constant if there are available eLearning courses, mobile education suited for easy access, designated time to speak with supervisors about career/skill development, communities built around learning, and opportunities to interact and learn alongside peers. This continuous model of learning, which promotes an ongoing relationship between the organization and the learner, is the solution needed to ensure that the time and money that goes into training is returned through increased employee skill and performance.

After learning how beneficial ongoing training can be compared to the traditional one-off method for retention and performance, what can companies do to move toward an organizational learning culture characterized by promoting continuous learning? 

Adopt a companywide strategy of continuous learning

First things first, to have a thriving learning culture, the organization involved must actively promote the idea of learning and training to its employees. Doing so becomes natural and habitual for employees to explore developmental options, the norm rather than the exception. Research has shown that a supportive organizational culture for newly acquired Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSA's) results in trainees applying training more effectively on the job (Rouiller & Goldstein, 1993; Tracey et al., 1995). The more leaders indicate that training is essential to the organization, the better the outcomes of training.

Choose the right tool and method for training

When developing a culture of ongoing training and learning, you must be realistic with your employee's time. Requesting all employees to sit through numerous classroom training on top of their busy and fluctuating schedules may not be the most feasible option. Instead, start taking advantage of what online learning platforms offer, including ease of use, learner autonomy, instant feedback, tracking, etc. This is not to say traditional training is never the way to go, as some training may be best suited for an in-person format but considering all of your available training options should be one of the first steps in implementing continuous learning.

Get leadership involved

Culture starts from the top and trickles down, so management needs to communicate their support for continuous learning activities and participation. The reward of promoting ongoing training is that training no longer fits into one box (such as training new employees); it can now be focused on what is essential to the development of each individual at each level, including management. 

Reward learners

It may be beneficial, especially in the early stages of developing continuous training, to make the experience valuable, fun, and engaging in promoting adoption. There are many ways organizations can motivate self-directed learning, such as introducing gamification components into the learning environment. Consider awarding badges based on the completion of a task or learning activity. Use points to mark achievements and progress where learners can move through different levels based on the number of courses completed or events attended. Do something that conveys to your employees that learning is a top priority within the organization. 

Provide autonomous options

Developing a continuous learning environment may seem challenging and time-consuming when starting. But promoting ongoing learning opportunities does not have to be managed on the organizational side solely. Some systems can easily be put into a portal containing job aids and knowledge repositories or databases that track learned and automatically recommend supplemental training. It is also possible to set up employee-led programs by establishing "communities of practice" where individuals of similar interests and job knowledge can interact virtually or in-person to answer questions and discuss challenging situations. Training is not always about knowing what was learned but should also prepare learners to understand where (and whom) they can go for help in the future.

Track and analyze results

Finally, track and analyze the results of any implemented training programs. By doing so, you can figure out what is working and what isn't. A massive downfall of the traditional training method is there is usually no follow-up or effort to track what was learned. And so, by actively working to do so, retention is no longer a guessing game but rather a thought-out and practiced methodology.

Here at Radiant Digital, we specialize in providing learning solutions to suit your organization's needs. We can help you develop training opportunities and implement change management strategies to promote a successful transition to a learning culture. Reach out to us today to see how we can help.

Citation:

Arthur, W., Jr., Bennett, W., Jr., Stanush, P. L., & McNelly, T. L. (1998). Factors that influence skill decay and retention: A quantitative review and analysis. Human Performance, 11(1), 57–101. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15327043hup1101_3

Salas, E., Tannenbaum, S. I., Kraiger, K., & Smith-Jentsch, K. A. (2012). The science of training and development in organizations: What matters in practice. Psychological science in the public interest, 13(2), 74–101. http://www.jstor.org/stable/23484697.

Statista Research Department (2020, December 15). U.S. Training Industry Expenditure 2020. Statista. Retrieved September 27, 2021, from https://www.statista.com/statistics/788521/training-expenditures-united-states/. 


Going Beyond the Kirkpatrick Model: Rethinking Your Training Evaluation Strategy

Measuring training effectiveness is one of the many responsibilities for learning and development professionals and one of the many priorities for senior leadership in workplaces. According to Statista Research Department, every year, U.S businesses collectively invest more than $80 billion on training their employees, and global spending on training and development has increased by 400% in 11 years. This investment cost emphasizes the importance of measuring training effectiveness and business impact. Also, as organizations provide more training offerings to upskill and reskill their employees, learning, and development professionals are hungry for guidance on creating and demonstrating the value of training to their organizations. The Kirkpatrick model is no secret to effectively evaluating training programs; however, most professionals get stuck in implementing the model's levels 3 (behavior) and 4 (results). Thus, it is no wonder that learning and development professionals seek other methods or creative strategies to evaluate the success of training programs. This article will explore effective evaluation strategies in achieving levels 3 and 4 of the Kirkpatrick Model and discuss Brinkerhoff's Success Case Method as an alternative approach to evaluating training. Depending on your evaluation goals, one or more of these solutions could provide structure in evaluating training at your organization.

Learning and development professionals have embraced the Kirkpatrick model and continue to adopt it as the standard approach for evaluating training programs. The evaluation model dates back to 1959 when published in the Journal of the American Society of Training Directors that outlines techniques for evaluating training according to four levels of evaluation. The model's primary strength is that it is easy to understand and implement as the evaluation only includes four levels: reaction, learning, behavior, and results.

Kirkpatrick Model 

Level 1

Level 1 evaluations (reaction) measure participants' overall response to the training program. This includes asking participants how good, engaging, and relevant the training content is to their jobs. Level 1 is considered simple and is typically achieved by implementing a formative evaluation in a survey immediately following training.

Level 2

Level 2 evaluations (learning) measure the increase in participants' knowledge due to the instruction during training. In level 2, it is common to assess learning using knowledge checks, discussion questions, role-play, simulations, and focus group interviews.

Level 3

Level 3 (behavior) aims to measure participants' on-the-job changes in behavior due to the instruction. This is essential because training alone will not yield enough organizational results to be viewed as successful. However, this level is also considered somewhat difficult to evaluate as it requires measurement of knowledge transfer (hyperlink previous article on knowledge transfer).

Level 4

Then lastly, there is Level 4 (results). Level 4 is the reason training is performed. Training's job is not complete until its contributions to business results can be demonstrated and acknowledged by stakeholders. Again, the majority of learning professionals struggle connecting training to performance and results for critical learning programs. When talking with other learning development professionals, the standard response to the difficulty in demonstrating learning results is the time required to measure and decide on a practical approach to capturing key performance indicators. Level 3 and 4 truly is the missing link in moving from learning to results so, what can organizations do to measure the impact of training behavior and the results.

Measuring Level 4 (Results) Strategies

One strategy organizations can implement in achieving desired results from training programs is to create leading indicators. Leading indicators provide personalized targets that all contribute to organizational outcomes. Consider leading indicators as little flags marching toward the finish line, which represents the desired corporate results. They also establish a connection between the performance of critical behaviors and the organization's highest-level impact. There are two distinct types of leading indicators, internal and external, which provide quantitative and qualitative data. Internal leading indicators arise from within the organization and are typically the first to appear. Internal leading indicators relate to production output, quality, sales, cost, safety, employee retention, or other critical outcomes for your department, group, or programs that contribute to Level 4 results. In addition to internal leading factors, external leading factors can be identified in measuring the success of a training program. For example, external leading factors relate to customer response, retention, and industry standards.

The benefit of identifying and leveraging leading indicators is they help keep your initiatives on track by serving as the last line of defense against possible failure at Level 4. In addition, monitoring leading indicators along the way give you time to identify barriers to success and apply the proper interventions before ultimate outcomes are jeopardized. Finally, leading indicators provide important data connecting training, on-the-job performance, and the highest-level result. The first step in evaluating leading indicators is to define which data you can borrow and which information you will build the tools to gather. For example, human resource metrics may already exist and can be linked to the training program/ initiative. If the data is not already available within the organization, it is crucial to define what tools to build to gather the data. Typical examples of tools that may need to be made are surveys and a structured question set for interviews and focus groups.

Alternative Approach to Kirkpatrick Model 

Alternative to using the Kirkpatrick model in measuring training success, the Success Case Method (SCM) by Robert Brinkerhoff has gained much adoption across several industries. This method involves identifying the most and least successful individuals who participated in the training event. Once these individuals are identified, interviews and other ways, such as observation, can be conducted to understand the training's effects better. In comparison, the Kirkpatrick model seeks to uncover a program's results, while the SCM wants to discover how the program affected the most successful participants. One weakness of this model is that only small sample size (successful participants) is asked to provide feedback on the training program, which may omit valuable information and data that could have been collected if all participants were included in giving feedback. This evaluation method may be more beneficial for programs that aim to understand how participants are using the training content on the job, which may result in more qualitative data than quantitative metrics. Both evaluations have benefits and disadvantages in measuring training effectiveness, so the key is selecting the best approach for your training program or perhaps combing these two approaches.

Here at Radiant Digital, we enjoy collaborating with organizations in developing training effectiveness strategies. Partner with us and learn how we can support your learning development team.

 


The Influence of Training and Development Opportunities on Employee Retention

In the continuously changing workspace, recruiting and retaining top employees is more crucial than ever. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2020 Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS), the overall voluntary turnover rate from December 2019 to December 2020 was 19.9%. This rate has steadily increased over the last decade. As the turnover rate increases, the cost of employee turnover also reaches new heights. The Work Institute's 2017 Retention Report states that turnover can cost employers an average of 33% of an employee's annual salary due to recruiting, interviewing, onboarding, and initial training costs (Sears, 2017).

How are companies supposed to recruit the right personnel, and then what do companies need to encourage recruits to be long-term employees? The clear answer is increasing training and development opportunities for employees to decrease turnover intentions. According to the EXECU Search Group report from 2019, 86% of professionals said they would change jobs if offered more professional development opportunities. Also, the top reported reason employees gave for leaving their position was lack of career development opportunities, as shown in the graphic below from the Work Institute's 2017 Retention Report. This reason is nearly double the second most reported reason, lack of work-life balance.

 Similar to turnover intentions, 43% of the variance in organization commitment can be explained by an organizational learning culture (Joo, 2010). When organizations offer growth and developmental opportunities, such as training and further education, employees feel their employment is valued, that their current and future abilities are trusted, and that the company wants to continue their development (Mustafa & Ali, 2019). This can be further explained through the basis of social exchange theory (Blau, 1964) which says when employees feel their organizations value them as essential resources and care about their professional and long-term development, they are more likely to be engaged and diligently work for the organization to fulfill the reciprocal relationship exchange (Raza, Ali, Naseem, Moeed, Ahmed, & Hamid, 2018).

Studies are ongoing concerning the availability of learning and development opportunities for employees and their influence on different workplace outcomes, including organizational commitment, well-being, employee engagement, job satisfaction, role performance, and turnover intentions. The following sections provide current research and statistics relating to the learning opportunities studies.

Employee Emotional Exhaustion

Emotional exhaustion is a chronic state of fatigue characterized by physical and mental depletion due to workplace demands and stressors. Related turnover intentions are the deliberate and conscious effort to leave an organization for other opportunities or personal/professional concerns (Raza et al., 2018). According to Proost, Ruysseveldt, and Dijke, learning opportunities positively affect knowledge and skill acquisition and provide opportunities for "skill utilization, job enhancement, and professional growth" (2012). In addition, these opportunities help employees realize their goals and "adequately manage the physiological and psychological demands they encounter in their jobs" (2012), which decreases emotional exhaustion and related turnover intentions.

Employee Expectations

Increasing learning opportunities also help reduce early-stage turnover due to unmet expectations about one's position. For example, the 2012 Proost, Ruysseveldt, and Dijke study report the relationship between unmet expectations and turnover intentions are stronger when learning opportunities are low (b = .21) (i.e., one standard deviation below the mean) and weaker when learning opportunities are high (b = .08) (i.e., one standard deviation above the norm). This clearly shows how increasing learning opportunities can decrease turnover intentions.

Employee Engagement

Learning opportunities can reduce negative workplace tendencies and increase employee performance/engagement and extra-role behaviors. Employee engagement is the state of mind held by positive and encouraged employees characterized by vigor, enthusiasm, dedication, and absorption (Eldor & Harpaz, 2016). Extra-role behaviors define exceptional employees—proactivity, knowledge sharing, creativity, and adaptivity (Eldor & Harpaz, 2016). In one study, 625 employees were surveyed on employee engagement, extra-role performance, job satisfaction, and perceived level of learning. The study found that the relationship between perceived learning climate and employee engagement was strong, positive, and significant (r = 0.52, p≤0.001), as were the relationships between employee engagement and all four performance variables: proactivity (r = 0.35, p≤0.001), knowledge sharing (r = 0.38, p≤0.001), creativity (r = 0.49, p≤0.001), and adaptivity (r = 0.44. p≤0.001) (Eldor & Harpaz, 2016). This data reveals that organizations promoting learning opportunities reduce turnover and increase employee engagement and performance—these benefit employee satisfaction with their position and the organization.

Job Satisfaction

Finally, learning opportunities show one of the most potent effects on overall employee job satisfaction. Job satisfaction is one of the critical determinants of turnover intentions. It can be described as the perception of one's job expectancies and job reality and whether those expectancies are being met. Research shows that employees who feel more satisfied within their position and organization are more likely to become engaged employees and display lower turnover intentions (Lin & Huang, 2020). In addition, organizations that prioritize learning and development found increased employee job satisfaction, productivity, and profitability (Egan, Yang, & Barlett, 2004). Several studies on this topic show conclusive results. One study tested different forms of learning against employee satisfaction and employee turnover intentions and found that all types of learning (individual learning (γ=0.41, p<0.001), collective learning (γ=0.42, p<0.05), organization-level understanding (γ=0.40, p<0.01), inter-organizational learning (γ=0.45, p<0.01), and exploration learning (γ=0.44, p<0.01)) correlated positively and significantly to employee satisfaction and correlated negatively and significantly to turnover intentions. This shows that learning opportunities, in any form, are highly valued by employees regarding job satisfaction and can reduce an employee's turnover intentions.

Desired Learning Opportunities

These studies show that learning and development opportunities should not be underestimated in the scope of organizational success, both in reducing turnover and the increase of positive employee behaviors. Beyond understanding that employees desire training and learning opportunities from their organizations, it is imperative to understand what topics they want. PayScale's 2019 Compensation Best Practices Report surveyed 38,000 respondents who were asked to indicate which professional development opportunities they enjoyed the most from their organization. Shown in the graphic below are the top seven categories of training and development from the survey. The principal learning opportunity wanted to be selected by 32% of respondents in management/leadership training. A close second, chosen by 30% of respondents, is professional certification. Additional training included in the top seven are technical skills (17%), teamwork and interpersonal skills (8%), employer-subsidized degree (7%), communications/public speaking (4%), and diversity and inclusion (2%).

Conclusion

Radiant Digital specializes in custom content creation to suit your unique organizational needs and to learn objectives if you're looking to increase your organization's learning and development opportunities. It can be hard to know exactly where to start when creating a learning-focused culture. Radiant can assist you in the design, development, and implementation of learning programs so you can achieve your highest organizational goals. Reach out to us today to see how we can help.

Citations

2019 Compensation Best Practices Report. PayScale. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.payscale.com/data/professional-development-employees-want.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor (2020). 2020 Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey. Received from https://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2021/article/as-the-covid-19-pandemic-affects-the-nation-hires-and-turnover-reach-record-highs-in-2020.htm

Egan, T., Yang, B., & Bartlett, K. (2004). The effects of organizational learning culture and job satisfaction on motivation to transfer learning and turnover intention. Human Resource Development Quarterly, 15, 279-301.

Joo, B. (2010). Organizational commitment for knowledge workers: The roles of perceived organizational learning culture, leader-member exchange quality, and turnover intention. Human Resource Development Quarterly, 21. 69 - 85. 10.1002/hrdq.20031.

Lin, C. Y., & Huang, C. K. (2020). Employee turnover intentions and job performance from a planned change: The effects of an organizational learning culture and job satisfaction. International Journal of Manpower, 42. 409-423. 10.1108/IJM-08-2018-0281.

Mustafa, G., & Ali, N. (2019) Rewards, autonomous motivation, and turnover intention: Results from a non-Western cultural context, Cogent Business & Management, 6:1, 1676090, DOI: 10.1080/23311975.2019.1676090.

Proost, K., Ruysseveldt, J.,& Dijke, M. (2012) Coping with unmet expectations: Learning opportunities as a buffer against emotional exhaustion and turnover intentions, European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 21:1, 7-27, DOI: 10.1080/1359432X.2010.526304.

Raza, B., Ali, M., Naseem, K., Moeed, A., Ahmed J., & Hamid M. (2018) Impact of trait mindfulness on job satisfaction and turnover intentions: Mediating role of work–family balance and moderating role of work–family conflict, Cogent Business & Management, 5:1, DOI: 10.1080/23311975.2018.1542943.

Sears, L. (2017) 2017 Retention Report. Received from https://cdn2.hubspot.net/hubfs/478187/2017%20Retention%20Report%20Campaign/Work%20Institute%202017%20-Retention%20Report.pdf

The employee experience will be critical to business success in 2019, according to New Hiring Outlook report by the EXECU: Search group. PR Newswire. (2019). Received from https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/the-employee-experience-will-be-critical-to-business-success-in-2019-according-to-new-hiring-outlook-report-by-the-execusearch-group-300773946.html.

Yu, H., Fang, L., & Ling, W. (2009) An empirical study on the construct and effective mechanism of organizational learning. Frontiers of Business Research in China, 3, 242–270. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11782-009-0013-3