On Whose Time Do We Learn What?

  • Ezra
  • March 18th, 2021

Continuing professional development shouldn’t be isolated from workplace duties; it is in the best interests of the company to reward workplace learning, so good development initiatives won't relegate CPD to fixed "classroom time" or require out-of-hours commitment.

On Whose Time Do We Learn What?

A survey carried out by go2HR revealed that 40% of employees that perceive poor job training leave their positions within the first year. These dissatisfied employees typically cite a lack of skills training and development as reasons for leaving the company. What this shows us is that in order to retain employees, we have to actually invest in developing them. This may sound like common sense now, but why is it so difficult to nurture a positive company culture that rewards and actively promotes learning?

While it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact reasons why this might happen, there are some massively successful companies that take a more active approach to on-the-job training. For instance, this article by Forbes explains that Deloitte LLP re-evaluated their learning models which results in 70% of learning occurring informally while employees were on the job. This was achieved by replicating real-life scenarios within the workplace to teach practical skills through examples and not just theory.

However, on-the-job training itself isn’t enough. We need to consider the value of continuing professional development at work and how we can actively track it and reward both the educator and the students.

Defining what CPD time means for employee learning

It’s important to define what CPD time means for your company. For example, an employee would need to study something relevant to their position if they want to be rewarded for it. For an IT professional, classes that involve networking tasks or hardware management can be considered a part of the company’s CPD plans and initiatives. Classes that are deemed irrelevant to the role or offer no real productivity increase (unless said employee can convince you otherwise) should not be considered a part of the company’s CPD policies.

This helps to ensure that employees who are taking professional development seriously are rewarded for their efforts. Companies should be more active in encouraging their employees to take up additional lessons, shadow their seniors, learn from other employees in the company, or engage with a coaching app or similar access program. Convincing your employees to engage each other to trigger informal on-the-job learning can be difficult, but it all starts with nurturing a company culture that promotes learning and continued professional development.

Currently, many companies isolate learning time from work time. Learning should become part of an employee’s responsibilities because it’s for the benefit of the entire company. They should have a say in what skills they learn, they should be paid for their time, and it should be scheduled as part of their workday.

Negotiating CPD time with your employees

Your employees will no doubt have a better understanding of their workplace responsibilities than you. Their day-to-day likely involves many different tasks, so it’s important to consider their point of view when it comes to identifying what CPD time means for them and how they can optimize it.

Soft skills vs hard skills

It’s also important to approach soft skills and hard skills differently when it comes to employee learning.

Soft skills should be considered anything that can be approached subjectively or taught differently based on the content and the educator. This can include leadership skills, conflict resolution, management strategies, and even communication skills. These skills may be interpreted slightly differently and can often be taught on-the-job through real-world scenarios and replicating those experiences with the learning facilities available to you.

On the other hand, hard skills should be considered anything that has little subjectivity to the learning process or the content. This can include programming skills for a developer or learning how to use a new piece of machinery that has been added to your facilities. These types of skills are taught through instructional videos, manuals, books, or eLearning resources. Since there is little to no subjectivity here, it can often be taught through static resources and likely won’t require an educator or coach.

Understanding the differences between these skills and how viable they are in on-the-job training scenarios will be the key to negotiating CPD plans with your employees. It’s important to consider each employee’s situation a completely different case so that you don’t lump several employees into the same bubble. Every employee has their preferences when it comes to learning new skills. What’s important is the end result of their learning and how comfortable they are with their studies while still being productive at work.

Differentiating personal and professional learning

Another important consideration is how you separate personal and professional learning. Here is a simple way to differentiate these skills:

  • Professional development involves learning skills that will help an employee fit perfectly into their role. It can also include learning secondary skills that will occasionally help them fit another role in the workplace so they can effectively cover for others or reach outside of their defined role to create new opportunities in the workplace. This can include IT training, accounting knowledge, or design skills.
  • Personal development involves people-related skills that can enhance their professional skills to differentiate employees from other staff. These are very general skills that can often be transferred to different roles. Some examples include time management, conflict resolution, leadership coaching, and communication skills.

Understanding the difference between personal and professional training will help balance the knowledge and skills of your employees. It will also help you shape employees into senior roles or encourage them to take leadership positions when necessary.

The importance of CPD planning

It can be difficult to define what CPD is for each employee in the workplace. However, you can often negate many of these complexities by simply defining what CPD is for your business.

Agreeing on CPD plans, negotiating with employees, and encouraging personal development can be a great way to help your staff improve themselves and thus be a greater asset to your company. Remember that many employees feel that personal development is important enough that they’d leave a company if it wasn’t a top priority. By showing that you care about an employee’s personal development and establishing processes to let them study and work at the same time while still being paid, it creates a workplace atmosphere that rewards learning and pushes employees to be the best they can.

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