Training in the workplace

Two weeks ago, two unrelated organizations released separate studies that provided interesting statistics on the status of workplace training.  One study was released by the Canadian Council on Learning and dealt with learning in general within the Canadian society.  The other study was conducted by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business and reported specifically on the incidence of training in the workplace.

Since 2006, the Canadian Council on Learning has been monitoring and reporting on the Composite Learning Index.  This index uses an array of statistics to reflect the many ways that Canadians learn, formally and informally, in school, at home, at work and in the community.  The most recent study showed that Canada’s Learning Index has declined for the first time since it was created.  The national average dropped two points from 77 to 75.  Nova Scotia scored 71, PEI 68, New Brunswick 63, and Newfoundland and Labrador 61.

The Canadian Council on Learning study also indicates that the national decline in learning would have been greater had it not been for an increase in adult learning.  The Council reports that: “Canada has seen an increase in the proportion of adults participating in job-related training over the last three years. At the same time there has been a growth in the proportion of businesses offering workplace training between data used in 2008 and 2009.”

At first glance, the increase in job-related training seems to be a positive indicator.  Employee development and training can increase productivity, employee morale and profitability.  Having said this, the Council reports that the most common type of training provided by employers is related to employee orientation and Health and Safety training.  More advanced training such as supervisory, managerial, literacy and numeracy is provided by a much smaller number of employees.  In other words, businesses may be providing more training, but a lot of the training is directed at new employees during orientation or to meet Occupational Health and Safety regulatory requirements.

The increase in the incidence of workplace training is confirmed by a Canadian Federation of Independent Business report, available at http://www.cfib.ca/research/reports/rr3083.pdf .  The CFIB reports that 94% of small business owners offer training, an increase of 6% since 2002.  However, if we look at the numbers a little more closely, CFIB reports that not all employees are receiving comparable training.  New inexperienced employees receive on average $5411 of training dollars while new experienced employees receive only $3469. All other staff average $2254.  Since new employees are more likely to receive orientation training and health and safety training, the CFIB report supports the findings of the Canadian Council on Learning.  

What does this mean for the employer?  In short, a new employee has a higher impact on the bottom line in terms of training cost.  Hence, employers who can retain tenured and trained employees stand to benefit more from their training investments.  On the other hand, employers who have a high attrition rate should examine their policies, procedures and culture to determine the root cause of attrition because turnover means wasted training dollars. 

HR pros can assist businesses identify root causes of their attrition and develop solutions to increase retention.  HR pros can also develop training, development and orientation programs for new and existing employees.

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