68% is the number to understand about the value of career training

Career training should be an important topic for organizations. Let me just quickly run through a couple of ideas about why. Research: If you look at some of these “great places to work” studies and then you talk to the researchers about approaches and methodology, you find that career training is important to employees. In many cases, it’s more important than salary.

Opportunities for growth: Per other studies, the No. 1 thing employees want out of any job is “opportunities for growth.” You need to take this with a grain of salt, of course. The term “opportunities for growth” can mean “I want to make more money” to many people. But it also could reference career training opportunities.

VUCA: If you believe we’re living in VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous), then we need a different approach to work. People are scared. We’re already in an age where engineers are running billion-dollar companies left and right. So what if you can’t code? What if you don’t understand the Internet? What about AI? People look at this stuff and are like “Whoa, the future is unclear.” You need some career training in that context. But you don’t necessarily want to pay for it yourself.

** Record scratch **

Here’s where the problem begins. Most people that run companies still run them on cost. This is logical in many respects — keeping costs down looks good to a Board of Directors or other “key stakeholders,” and might get you a fat bonus. It’s 2016, though — we should probably run companies from a place of value, not cost. But many miss that. Oh well!

Here’s the issue on running companies from cost. To most execs, a concept like “career training” is a fluffy HR thing. Executives don’t care about HR, so they don’t want to see costs from it on their balance sheets. The 1-2 punch attitude goes like this:

  • “Who needs career training? I got my education at the School of Business Hard Knocks, baby!”
  • “If we give these rank-and-files career training, we’re paying to make them better for our competitors when they leave!”

I’ve actually heard guys that make north of $225K say both of those bullet points.

“What if we train these employees and they leave?” an exec barks. Uh. What if they stay? 

Now, both of these are wrong. In terms of No. 1 — everyone needs career training, and now more than ever. And in terms of No. 2 — what happens when those untrained employees stay instead of leave? Ruh roh.

Career training and Pew research

Some nice, detailed research here from Pew called “The State of American Jobs.” If you care about stuff like that — i.e. your future as a person able to earn money — read it. It’s interesting. Here’s a money quote:

The number of workers in occupations requiring average to above-average education, training and experience increased from 49 million in 1980 to 83 million in 2015, or by 68%. This was more than double the 31% increase over the same period in employment, from 50 million to 65 million, in jobs requiring below-average education, training and experience. 

So “jobs with above-average education” are basically growing at a 2x rate compared to employment overall. That’s some real stuff to think about. Obviously a lot of this is tied to tech. In 1980, there were thousands of jobs that couldn’t exist — like “Google Analytics Ninja” — because, well, Google didn’t exist. That’s been a massive shift in the economy.

But think about this even at a micro level. You’ve all had jobs where some lady comes up to you and is like “Hey, can you work Excel? It’s just so damn frustrating!” Many variations of this person exist in every company. So even if your job isn’t in tech, it will always take on new, different, potentially advanced roles. At this point, you’d think career training is important.

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So how do we make career training more important?

I guess we start with the main intersection of the problem. A person will go get a MBA or some other degree on their own dime (or take out loans), but generally speaking within the context of a job … people expect the employer to pay for the career training. That’s the rubber-meets-road moment on most of this. Still, some advice:

Move it from HR: HR career training tends to be stuffy, webinar-based, four-day-old-cookies-on-the-table nonsense. People don’t learn or grow that way. The HR training culture is mostly an excuse for third-party vendors to prey on HR’s lack of business sense and make a few pesos for themselves. Those third-party vendors are bad hombres.

Make it organic: A forced career training is just that — forced. People are nervous and don’t learn a lot. Here’s a small example of how to make it organic. Someone in your finance/accounting department probably understands money, right? God, you’d hope. Well, corporate finance and personal finance are different — but tons of individuals don’t understand money either. (The current savings rate for Americans under 35 is negative 1.8 percent.) A person from the CFO’s team could lead monthly career training seminars on money. He/she could discuss both corporate money and individual savings. How many people in a 2,000-person company have no idea what CAGR means? Or EBITDA? This is literally all the top guys care about, and yet most of the company has no idea. How can those lesser people advance if they’re basically speaking a different language?

Numbers/Data: You gotta slap a spreadsheet together and basically show the execs this bouncing ball:

  • When X-amount of people leave, we lose Y-amount of money
  • Then we spend Z-amount of money hiring and recruiting
  • The leaving people are saying Reasons 1, 2, and 3 are why they leave
  • Reason 2 is career training, or lack thereof
  • So if we did that, we could make/save money

Now of course, 10,285 internal biases will crop up here. They always do! But it’s a start.

The career training question from above — and the bottom line here

That question above was: “What if we train these fools, and then they leave?”

I try to think about work in different ways, and I also try to call out some managerial garbage we’ve all experienced. If that kinda sorta interests you, I do a newsletter every Thursday. Feel free to join up.

Here’s the flip side: you don’t train anyone, and they stay. Know what that company looks like 3-5 years later? It’s miserable. Basically no one has any new skills, so everyone just focuses on what they know and understand. Thus, the managers are inherently micromanagers — and the rank-and-files can’t update the CMS or CRM. It’s a toxic joke of a place to work, all because the executives had misguided cost excuses around career training.

Let’s be as blunt as possible here. Most people that rise up in companies care about process, product, and their own ass/financial aspirations. That’s it. People are seen as interchangeable to many top dog role-seekers. Now, that might change over the next 30-50 years — but if you think it’s changing tomorrow, I got a HR software solution I can sell you. An average CEO right now is about 54-56. He’s probably a guy, and he ain’t going anywhere for 12-14 years.

HR? That’s nonsense. I hit targets. Career training? Whatever, my lieutenants are doing what they need to do. Rank-and-files? I don’t get bonus’ed off their deal. (Do I?)

Career training falls down as a priority because people aren’t a priority. So that’s where it all really needs to start. Realize people work with customers/clients, thus people make you money. Not rocket science, but … most have missed this for 50 years or so. When you begin to value people, you’ll understand the importance of career training. It’s a two-step process, but the value of people must come first.

What else you got on career training?


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