Why Your Professional Development Program Is Broken (and How to Fix It)

Many workplaces offer complimentary professional development programs and courses, but these programs are only as valuable as the number of employees who participate, apply new skills and demonstrate impact. Increasingly, employee training is becoming a priority. In fact, the U.S. has seen double digit percent increases in spending on corporate training every year since 2011, but these numbers don’t automatically translate to participation. As with anything in business, just throwing money at the problem isn’t the answer. Only the most innovative companies are recognizing a strong ROI and strengthening the skills supply chain.

Consider these common barriers that may be hindering success in your L&D programs:

Bad timing.  

From a busy employee’s perspective, feeling time-crunched can be frustrating, especially if she has to designate part of her day to completing a development program. Pulling staff away from the tasks they are responsible for to participate in a course or training session can often come off as disrespectful of their time. And if they’re being asked to participate in programs after-hours, they may be resentful of losing time with their families for a long commute to a lecture hall.

Solution: Mobile-ready content enables learning at the point of need. In other words, by delivering programs through a customizable, cloud-based platform, employees can access them when they have some downtime, with no commuting required. This puts them in a better frame of mind to focus exclusively on the content and retain the information.

It isn’t relevant to their jobs or careers.

Generic professional development material tends to be dry, unmotivating, and crammed with more information than the trainee needs to succeed at her job. Programs that are not tailored to the employee will come across as a useless exercise, rather than an effective learning tool. An employee is less likely to retain the material that is relevant to her performance because it is clouded by extraneous info, wasting her time and your budget.

Solution: Customizable programs engage your staff in their own professional development. A cloud-based platform is easily adaptable so you can tweak and customize specific content and the overall program to address specific company roles and improvement needs. Staff are able to focus on and develop skills that are specific to improving their performance in the company.

It’s boring.

The way people absorb info has shifted along with the evolution of digital. Want to inspire your employees to zone out? Hand them a nice, thick three-ring binder of training material, or ask them to watch a three-hour lecture. Even if the content is strong, these stale delivery models do little to engage and delight the learner, and less to acknowledge how people absorb information today.

Solution: Putting professional development programs onto smartphones and tablets shows off your training materials in ways most likely to improve knowledge retention. You can add interactive components, multimedia features, mix in audio and video content, and more. These enhancements will help keep your staff engaged, and help them absorb information in a dynamic way.

There’s no opportunity for feedback.

It’s hard to gauge if your employees are benefitting from your paper or lecture-based development programs. Did they actually absorb the content and learn something valuable they could apply to their work performance? When there is no mechanism to measure their interest level, or allow them to share their thoughts on the program, you won’t know which areas need improvement.

Solution: The beauty of mobile-ready programs is that you’ll be able to learn from the data and make adjustments to the content. For instance, you may realize that several employees seem to be getting hung up on one particular area, or maybe they’re skipping quickly through another text-heavy section. This information can help you make informed tweaks and optimize your content.

It’s outdated.

Today, your employees are more comfortable working on their mobile devices than ever before. They are accustomed to having real-time, updated information about anything, from the weather to stock prices to their favorite bar’s tap list. When presented with a professional development program that is paper-based or relies on classroom training, they’re likely to chalk it up as a waste of time and skip it.

Solution: Nothing says forward-thinking and innovative like adapting to the mobile-ready workforce. Once you make the initial leap, updating your content in real-time with well-informed insights is much simpler, ensuring that your programs always reflect the most recent changes in your business. Best of all, employees can access the content on the device of their choice, whether that’s a tablet or smartphone–no need to log onto clunky, back-room training computers.

The takeaway

Empowering your staff to improve skills and control their own career development requires useful, engaging, convenient learning and development content. Employees who feel like they are being thoughtfully invested in, invest in their work. If professional development programs feel like a waste of time and resources to your staff, they probably are. If you instead put professional development into the palm of their hands, then you will enable them to retain information effectively and learn when it is most convenient to them. Plus, you’ll gain insight into how your employees are engaging with their professional development programs, so you can make informed improvements seamlessly.

By understanding how your staff accesses and absorbs information and then implementing well-informed innovations, you will see improvements to your professional development programs and, subsequently, your bottom line.