Building an employee’s soft skills through corporate learning can be controversial because it’s difficult to get a read on the business benefits that come from teaching soft skills such as self-motivation, project ownership and so on.
However this is changing. Recent research findings reveal some astonishing business bottom line benefits associated with soft learning. One piece of research, produced by California-based research firm Bersin& Associates, says companies with sophisticated approach to employee development averaged three times higher revenue growth from 2008 to 2011.
High-performance learning organisations also are eight times more likely to be viewed as strategically valuable by executives and three times more likely to align learning-and-development initiatives with overarching corporate goals, according to the study.
Another study, published in the journal Management Theory, also found that a 10% increase in the educational level of staff resulted in an 8.6% increase in productivity whilst a comparable investment in plant and equipment resulted in a 3.4% increase in productivity.
Getting those sort of results, however, isn’t a simple thing. If your managers don’t encourage, support, and recognise learning, and if your leaders don’t communicate the value of continuous learning and its application in the workplace, then the alignment between learning and achievement of performance goals is not clear to employees.
When performance goals are not clear to employee, latest technology implemented will make no difference. HR and learning professionals need to ask themselves, “What is it about our organisational culture that is getting in the way of employee learning (and application of that learning) and what can we do to overcome those barriers?”
The key to moving past these barriers is to have supervisors and managers that communicate with employees, and create a positive learning and workplace culture. The Human Resources department plays its role by providing leadership training skills to supervisors and managers to ensure that they’re capable of managing their department functions and their staff.
Innovation also has a major part to play in promoting a learning environment. Innovation must be part of an organisation’s DNA, and if it not part of the DNA, then an innovation culture must be developed.
Creating an innovation culture means fostering the ability in staff to ask questions, to have intellectual freedom and the desire to shed new light on existing problems and programs. Answering a question with “why not” rather than “why” is also part of creating an innovation culture.
In the end, the goal of all training programs is to improve on the job performance. A good measure is to tie an employee’s development activity to a specific competency or goal. If the learning and development has been effective, then one would expect to see a correlative improvement in performance review scores. And ideally, you would look at performance review scores not just for a single employee, but for all the employees who undertook similar training.
Done properly, corporate learning will help drive corporate advantage and help to create an innovation culture. And creating that innovation culture is a combination of factors unique to every organisation – it is a combination of training, coaching, performance support, and employee assessment.
by Rebecca Hatten leads the Learning and Collaboration group within Presence of IT’s People Practice. Presence of IT is a global leader in human resources, payroll and workforce management solutions.
Deloitte University Press: Global Human Capital Trends 2015
Management Theory and Practice: Kris Kole 2010 4th Edition