If we told you that top-performing organizations have a more effective approach to employee learning than their competitors, you’d probably yawn. Obvious, you’d say.
But how about if we said that one of the things that makes these organizations better at learning is that they pick and choose when it comes to training? They don’t try to train everybody equally. And it might surprise you to find out who gets top priority (hint: It’s not the big shots).
Fact is, cream-of-the-crop organizations do pay more attention to picking specific groups of employees for specific training, at least according to recent research from consultants at Boston-based Aberdeen Group.
The best and the rest
Aberdeen surveyed managers at 180 enterprises of all sizes worldwide, most of them in North America and Europe, and compared employee learning initiatives at the top 20% of organizations — measured by revenue growth, quality of employee evaluations, and ability to replace key leaders — with those at the other 80%.
A central conclusion that Aberdeen drew from its survey results: The best organizations were much more likely to run dedicated learning programs for different employee and managerial groups. And certain groups were especially important targets for the best organizations.
Here are some of the findings from the survey:
- Top organizations got exceptional leverage out of training temporary/contingent workers, new hires fresh out of college and front-line managers. Some 34% of the best-in-class employers ran targeted learning programs for temp/contingent workers, compared with just 5% of the rest. For new grads, the figures were 34% and 15% respectively, and for front-line managers 69% vs. 40%.
- Top organizations were also significantly more likely to have specific learning programs for high-potential employees (51% vs. 32%) and mid-level managers (63% vs. 47%).
- There was less difference between top organizations and average ones — but still in favor of the former — when it came to training run-of-the-mill employees (40% vs. 29%) and executives (54% vs. 39%).
To each its own
To be sure, every organization has its own employee learning imperatives. You may employ very few new hires out of college or temp workers, and it may not be worth your time to develop programs aimed especially at such people.
But the survey does have a message that’s pretty much universal: For best results, figure out who your salient employee and managerial groups are, then aim your scarce training dollars where they’ll be most profitable.
And don’t assume that either small-group training for your top executives, or mass training for your rank and file, is the most effective way of gaining a competitive edge. You may well need to do both, but it’s possible neither is worthy of your biggest training spend.
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