Employees respond to customized, diverse learning channels. So does financial performance.
By Kathy Albarado
In an economy where every dollar is cautiously and carefully spent, the most important investments become apparent. Companies admit the secret to their success is their employees. Even in a down economy, investments in employee programs are on the rise.
Organizations with strong employee development initiatives achieve a critical competitive advantage. A global workforce survey conducted by Towers Perrin found that companies with the highest levels of employee engagement achieve better financial results and are more successful in retaining their most valued employees. In fact, companies with the largest percentage of engaged employees experienced an increased operating income of 19 percent. When engaged through development and training programs, employees believe the company values their efforts and feel a part of the organization’s overall success.
For four years, Helios HR has hosted the Apollo Awards, a program dedicated to recognize employers that invest in employee development initiatives. In parallel, a leading market research firm, Market Connections, collects survey data from all nominees. This data is analyzed in a best practices program overview. Through the Apollo Awards, executives and human resource (HR) professionals can learn about the actions of enlightened and innovative organizations, which exemplify strong HR programs. Certain commonalities become evident, and this year a clear trend emerged: Leading companies are offering their employees customized training programs in skill development (i.e. personal, time management, technical) via a diverse array of learning channels.
Multiple Channels of Learning
The finalists for our awards program take unique approaches to employee development; all do provide such customized training. Most of these top organizations offer a variety of employee development opportunities, such as peer-to-peer mentoring, attendance at events, seminars, online training, and instructor-led classes so that employees can select the training they find individually most effective.
The benefits of offering different learning approaches can include increased retention, a positive effect on company culture and productivity, improved ability to effectively recruit, enhanced quality of work, and increased organizational expertise. Reduced opportunity cost also occurs when employees are assimilated into an organization more rapidly. Two of these forward-thinking organizations, Dewberry and Métier, offer customized programs, with a variety of channels to cater to individual learning styles and preferences.
Dewberry’s Blended Learning
Dewberry, a professional services firm, recognizes that people learn in different ways; therefore, they use a blended learning approach. This approach offers employees a variety of learning channels as part of The Dewberry Learning Center: classroom, software, mentoring, coaching, one-on-one, seminars, and brown-bag lunches, among other approaches.
One key to Dewberry’s blended learning success is that it incorporates internal resources, such as corporate leadership, to host or participate in the programs. The active involvement of top executives impresses upon employees the seriousness of the training and demonstrates that their efforts are valued.
Métier’s Development on Day One
Métier, a project portfolio management solutions provider, doesn’t have an assembly line. Tweaking and fine-tuning the organization is all about polishing their greatest asset—the employees. Métier considers each employee’s learning abilities and needs with customized development beginning on the employee’s first day. Every new employee attends a two-week orientation known as Boot Camp, where each individual’s strengths and weaknesses are assessed to provide a benchmark for their career-long professional development activities. Boot Camp also provides instructive and interactive orientation in a variety of learning ways, such as instructor-led, computer-based, seminars, webinars, and on-the-job-training.
Métier’s approach paid off: the company witnessed greater employee camaraderie and improved knowledge retention. In fact, when Métier shifted Boot Camp from one week to two weeks, the percentage of employees with tenure of one year increased 25 percent and tenure of two years increased by 12 percent.
One Size Does Not Fit All
Dewberry and Métier are just two companies finding value in offering their employees multiple development opportunities. It’s no surprise that both organizations are service providers that understand their success is tied to the performance of their employees. Both provide innovative employee development initiatives. We can look to these companies as models in implementing strong programs.
Companies that don’t explore developing their greatest resources—their employees—will lose a competitive advantage, which can be a costly loss. Organizations are quickly finding that there is no “one size fits all” approach to learning.
Hubert Humphrey, former vice president of the US, put it very simply: “There are incalculable resources in the human spirit, once it has been set free.” And it was Oliver Wendell Holmes who said, “The mind, once stretched, never regains its original dimension.” Innovative employee development practices offered through multiple learning channels provide an organization the opportunity to stretch beyond “its original dimensions.”
Kathy Albarado is the CEO of Helios HR.