Stepping-Up Employee Training
  • Managing people

Stepping-Up Employee Training

Why so many companies get training wrong and how to do it right


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A chronic lack of skills is threatening to harm the UK’s growth and competitiveness, according to new research from the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REV). A new report by the Conference Board of Canada says more than half of Canadian businesses are having trouble finding workers with critical skills.

As the baby-boomer generation reaches retirement age, a dire skills shortage is becoming a critical concern in many parts of the developed world. In-work training should be one of the solutions, hence the new Apprenticeship Levy launched in the UK. Unfortunately, as highlighted by Schulich Executive Education Centre (SEEC), too many organizations are failing to deliver effective training currently, so how will companies meet this challenge?

Click here to download SEEC catalogue of management and executive seminars: ‘Resilience in a Disruptive World’

Several studies show that employee training can be more problematic than productive, wrote BBC Capital May 3. A 2010 McKinsey & Company report found just 25 per cent of respondents felt that training programs had a measurable improvement on performance. A 2015 study from online training company 24×7 Learning found that only 12% of employees apply new skills learned in training to their jobs.

With about $359 billion spent on training globally in 2016 – up about 21% over the past five years – businesses are investing more and more into beefing up their staff’s skills. But groans continue to fill office hallways every time someone gets called into a session.

Many programs don’t actually improve skills [and] are too generic, too basic and too boring. The misguided one-size-fits-all approach comes from companies training everyone, in every department, in the hope they will feel equipped to try new things, adds Alan Middleton, executive director of the Schulich Executive Education Centre. “There’s not enough attention given to what objectives the company wants to accomplish and the current level of knowledge and skill of those who are going to be trained.”

If bosses really want to help people move around, they need to make career development more personal, identifying individual people who want to learn new skills and tailoring their approach accordingly, Middleton says.

The offer of skills improvement has become part and parcel of the standard job hunt. Indeed, a 2015 study found that 69% of employees under 40 say that training opportunities play an important part in deciding whether or not to stay at a job, while a 2016 Gallup report found that 87% of millennials say professional development is important to them in a job.

“We all want to learn things that re useful and will move us ahead – I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want that,” says Middleton. “What people don’t want is irrelevant training that’s a waste of time.” In other words, training for training’s sake doesn’t work.

Keeping workers ahead of the curve is “a three-legged stool,” he adds. “It’s experience with appropriate coaching, networking and training to keep people up to date.”

SEEC is keen to build partnerships other universities and business schools as it helps meet the employee training challenge. Interested parties should contact Sung Nahm, Associate Director, Centres of Excellence and Strategic Alliances, Email:

Read how SEEC approaches training: ‘Our Approach to Program Design.

Click here to download SEEC catalogue of management and executive seminars: ‘Resilience in a Disruptive World’


Based in Toronto, Canada, the Schulich Executive Education Centre (SEEC) is a world-leader in individual learning and corporate learning

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