Employees Prefer Being Shown to Being Told

Last Updated Oct 30, 2008 3:19 PM EDT

Employers aren't getting the type of training their employees most value, according to the CIPD. Its 2008 "Who Learns at Work?" survey, the third in a series that began in 2002, has found that practical, supported learning, where employees are shown how to do something, then be given an opportunity to practise it, is the preferred option for 46 per cent of respondents, with 16-to-24-year olds particularly in favour of hands-on training methods.

This fits with the general trend towards more individualised personal development plans.

Yet the majority of training courses still take place in the classroom. (Yet the majority of the 751 people surveyed this year were positive about the training they'd already received, so clearly any training's considered better than none at all.)

Training providers should try harder not to shoe-horn people into a prescribed format that may not suit the business's needs, says CIPD adviser Martyn Sloman.

"Trainers are no longer the sun around which learner planets revolve. Employees have a firm preference for more active learning opportunities. They certainly don't like solitary or unsupported learning."
For their part, employers need to allow trainees the space to learn and practise new skills without being afraid of making mistakes.

Increasingly, though, responsibility for training decisions has shifted from HR to the line manager -- the percentage of respondents whose manager was in charge of initiating training has risen from 45 per cent in the last CIPD survey in 2005 to 49 per cent today.

This makes the role of the manager as talent developer even more pivotal and powerful -- a dangerous place for toxic managers who play favourites, hold people back for fear of being shown up, or are just bad communicators.

They should be first in line for training. Good managers should have a head-start when it comes to show-and-practise techniques anyway, as they are similar to the methods they'll use to delegate tasks.

How about companies creating a bespoke talent management qualification that team leaders must achieve? At least then businesses know that the people in charge of their talent are talented themselves.