Why Won’t You Let Your Workers Learn?

Why Won’t You Let Your Workers Learn?
Summary: Our research shows 98% of workers want to learn. So how come so many organizations aren’t doing anything to feed this hunger for knowledge?

Do You Let Your Workers Learn?

In a recent last piece, I unveiled the results of a survey* we conducted. Exhibit A: 98% of those surveyed said they consider company-sponsored education important for their on-the-job training and overall professional development.

I’ll admit, I was very pleasantly surprised by how high that figure was. 98% of workers want to learn. (How willing they are to make it happen may be another matter altogether, but the sentiment remains.) So how come so many organizations aren’t doing anything to feed this hunger for knowledge—knowledge that can translate into higher productivity, higher profitability and so much more?

I now submit to you Exhibit B: A third of the same workers surveyed say their employers offer no sponsored learning, no incentives to learn, and not even encouragement to learn on their own time. No in-house training. No external webinars. Nothing.

The good news, of course, is that 67% of respondents do experience company sponsored learning or encouragement to learn. This includes many forms of learning such as internal training sessions (conducted in person, via web conferencing or virtual classroom), external webinars, and the like. But only 35% are encouraged to attend business/trade conferences where deeper learning and important networking can occur. And only 37% are encouraged to learn on their own by signing up for online classes or weekend workshops or simply reading about their space.

What’s the point, some employers may ask. You can lead a horse to water, they may start to say.

The point is this:

Not only do nearly all of the workers we surveyed believe job-related education is important, 58% say they spend at least an hour per week learning on their own. (26% say they spend at least four hours while 12% say they spend at least seven hours.) This despite only 21% reporting that they’re often reimbursed for any education related costs. 48% say they’re never reimbursed at all and treat the expense as an opportunity cost.

This does not bode well for many organizations. Many experts say establishing a dynamic learning culture within the enterprise is critical in order to compete at a higher level - especially in today’s information-driven age. Besides, it’s not only cheaper to invest in employees than replace them. With many industries struggling with a skills gap, you may not have a choice. Whether it’s a current employee or his/her replacement, chances are you’re going to have to invest in some sort of training. Not only does educating your workers help keep them happy (and less likely to leave), productive, and profit-driving, it can prevent costly mistakes - like turning off an important customer or creating a reputational disaster on social media.

Sure enough, according to a recent NewVoiceMedia survey, businesses could be losing as much as $62 billion per year to bad customer service. And of the 2,000 people NewVoiceMedia surveyed, 49% report switching businesses as a result of bad service. And 27% did so after having to deal with poorly trained service reps who couldn’t answer basic questions!

Granted, a rep’s inability to answer certain questions can’t always be attributed to subpar training. Sometimes it’s the script the reps have to work with. Sometimes it’s simply the reps themselves. But often the problem isn’t when a rep can’t answer a question. It’s when a rep can’t inform you of this inability in an appropriate way. And this more often than not stems from a simple case of either poor training or no training at all.

Do you let your workers learn? They want to. Isn’t it in your company’s interest to help them? If freeing up budget for education is really that difficult, you can at least encourage workers to learn on their own. Remember, many will do so at their own expense. Instead of reimbursing workers for outside learning, reward them when they start making use of their news skills. Incentives can start on the small side and then grow from coffee gift cards to lunch with the CEO to raises or promotions. Of course, nothing can take the place of company-sponsored training, but it’s a start.


* 548 U.S.-employed internet users 18 years old and over participated in the ConnectSolutions Learning in the Workplace Survey conducted online during January of 2017.