Tapping Training and Development For Top Talent

A new study sheds light on how much employees value training and development programs. Here's a look at how associations might be able to capitalize on that finding.

If you had to choose, which would you rather your organization provide: training and growth programs or diversity and inclusion programs?

It’s not an easy choice, or really an either-or question, but a recent workplace survey of American employees found that training programs came out on top. According to the study conducted by public relations firm Finn Partners, when asked to rank six workplace initiatives, a third of respondents ranked investing in employees first and 55 percent ranked it in the top two.

Somewhat surprisingly, non-white respondents ranked diversity programs fifth in levels of importance, and millennials ranked it sixth.

While by no means a scientific study, and one that encompasses a relatively small sample size of 1,000 respondents, the survey does suggest the importance of employee development programs.

And it’s an issue employers are also taking to heart. Training the next generation of leaders was cited as one of five top workplace trends of 2016 by the Workforce Institute at Kronos.

Many organizations realize that with younger generations continuing to grow in their relative representations in the job market and in management positions—millennials and gen Xers are outpacing baby boomers—there’s a corresponding need to train those groups.

“Leadership development, succession planning, and training programs that tackle the skills shortage will be major themes in 2016 as an increasing number of organizations will invest more in middle management to ensure they can properly hire, coach, and motivate their employees,” Joyce Maroney, director of the Workforce Institute, wrote in a blog post.

Research from the Association for Talent Development further reinforces this point. In its 2015 state of the industry report, ATD found that organizations spent more on employee training and development in 2014 than in previous years. It also found that employees see the value in training programs, as the number of hours they are spending in them is also increasing.

But perhaps there’s another question for associations to ask: Could this be an opportunity for them to come in and offer this type of training?

Yes, according to the Texas Society of Association Executives (TSAE). After witnessing an increase in turnover of top staff executives among its members, the association launched a consulting program, in part, to help boards make better-informed choices when it came to hiring CEOs. The program specifically offers training in board facilitation and organizational assessments, interim executive placement, and executive director searches.

“We want the boards that are going to hire CEOs who are going to stay,” Beth Brooks, CAE, TSAE president and CEO, told Associations Now.

Higher Education

The Finn Partners survey highlighted another potential area where employers can step in and offer other benefits to employees in addition to their salaries.

The survey revealed that more than 60 percent of respondents said they would go back to school to earn a different or higher degree. Whether or not that group actually pursues more education, the idea of helping employees pay for school or pay off student loan debt is trending among some organizations.

Later this year, for example, Pricewaterhouse Coopers will begin offering employees up to $1,200 a year to help pay off their loans, and one Paris-based management firm is offering U.S. employees as much as $5,000 to put toward federal student loans, according to The Associated Press. Other companies, such as Microsoft Corp., are offering programs to employees to refinance their loans at discounted rates.

“It’s harder to hire great talent, and this is another great tool to do that,” Christopher Webb, the CEO of ChowNow, an online food delivery service that is helping employees to pay down their student loan debt, told the news outlet.

Does your association subsidize or offer employees training and development programs? Please share in the comments.


Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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