Test, fail, repeat: the mantra of tech firms has been to try new things and use cheap computing power and smart people to create new products and services. But behind the scenes, the world’s top tech companies are also heavy investors in training.
The focus on training partly stems from the recognition that as disrupters themselves, many tech firms are acutely aware of their own vulnerability to disruption – so with technology developing at a rapid pace, they need to build their skill base to stay abreast. Then there is the “war for talent” in which they are embroiled: tech companies need to keep their employees engaged and feeling that their careers are developing to keep them.
Training and career development is very important in building a “thriving organisation” that can flourish in an age of disruption, says human capital consultancy Mercer. Thriving organisations treat their workforce as an asset in which to invest, Mercer says: they also understand that they need to create a “compelling employee value proposition”, because their staff increasingly expect to have jobs that work for them, in terms of their development and fulfilling their individual potential.
This is exacerbated by the fact that the millennials in the workforce feel that their employer needs to sell itself to them – not the other way around. “Once upon a time, the employer held all the cards, and had their choice of candidates,” says Jason Laufer, senior director, learning and talent solutions, at LinkedIn Asia-Pacific. “With good talent with the right skills being hard to find these days, it’s organisations that need to offer more – not only to attract, but to retain talent.”
Part of how to do this is to have a culture of learning, and a mindset of enabling employees to develop their skills constantly, says Laufer. “In our most recent Talent Trends research, 60 per cent of people said that if they were able to improve their skills and challenge themselves, they would stay at a company longer. That in itself tells you that investing in learning is actually really important.”
Laufer says the average lifespan of a skill is only around five years, at present. “If you sit stagnant, and your organisation doesn’t have a culture of learning, or have a growth mindset yourself to continually learn and grow, unfortunately your job may not exist in a few years’ time,” he says.
Dr. Geethani Nair, head of Skillspoint Technology & Business Services at TAFE NSW, says the top tech companies rely on learning and development for high employee engagement, and utilise a variety of methods to achieve this. ‘Today’s tech companies are looking for flexible training programs that address specific skills needs in an age where innovation, agility and transformation are critical to business success.”
While many tech companies may have initial formal induction or training programs at the commencement of employment, Nair says there is a shift toward negotiating personalised learning and development plans based on learning needs, talents, interests and career aspirations of individual employees. “Through these programs, managers track the employee engagement in Learning and Development, and report on metrics. In tech companies, peer-to-peer learning and employee-driven training is an integral part of the learning and development strategy,” says Nair.
Laufer says a lot of employees “now expect that they will be trained on the job” – that is much of an expected benefit as a retirement plan (superannuation) or healthcare.
For companies, he says, there is the increasing realisation that the “ideal candidate” for a job may not exist right now, and the employer has to “upskill” existing people. “If you think about the growth of automation and artificial intelligence in the workplace, job requirements are changing very quickly, every day. That’s why it’s important for companies to invest in upskilling from the outset,” he says.
Where relevant, Laufer says there will always be a role for face-to-face training – although it has to be relevant: the cliché of the employees trooping into a room, where an external trainer puts up a power point, is “gone.”
“A blended learning environment, where you have a combination of classroom and online learning, can be effective, but the necessity to train in multiple locations at once, and at scale, is really where e-learning kicks in and is most effective,” he says.
This content was produced in association with TAFE Enterprise. Read our policy on commercial content here.