Divides Over Training, Support Lead to ‘Trust Gap’, IBM Report Says

Oct 19, 2020

Dive Brief:

  • Executives recognize the pressures employees face as companies move through digital transformations, but many overestimate their offerings to employees in areas such as training, support and job expectations, according to a Sept. 30 IBM Institute for Business Value report.

  • In data collected from multiple surveys, IBM found that while 74% of employers believe their organizations are helping employees learn skills needed to work in a new way, only 38% of employees felt similarly. The two groups were also divided on the question of physical and emotional health; 80% of employers said their organizations were providing such support for their workforces, but fewer than half of employees agreed.

  • There is a “reasonable foundation for employee skepticism” about whether employers are committed to supporting workers, the report’s authors said. Recent layoffs and furloughs, combined with corporate prioritization of cost-containment and technology resources, mean “employers may be sending signals that human resources are replaceable.”

Dive Insight:

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought discussions about the future of work — and the skills needed to bring about that future — to the forefront for HR.

Some employees were already uncomfortable discussing skills gaps with their employers, according to research. A 2019 consumer survey by learning platform edX found more than one-third of respondents admitted a lack of proficiency in at least one new skill or subject area in a current or past job, and 40% said they didn’t feel comfortable asking their employer for assistance with a learning solution.

Even so, training alone does not necessarily mean that workers will be able to prove proficiency. In August, Gartner published a data analysis in which it found workers were applying only 54% of the new skills they learned on the job, despite 33% of the skills workers learned three years ago no longer being relevant.

Simply adding more training to employees’ plates is also not a fix-all solution, especially during the pandemic. The move to remote work at many companies, which has upended routines, culture and day-to-day interactions between team members, has taken place simultaneously alongside growing technological change within companies. These factors increase the risk for burnout, a Verizon Business executive recently told HR Dive. Employers may be able to ensure that training is less of a burden in the current environment by creating personalized and relevant learning content that fits employees’ shifting schedules.

Getting the delivery aspect of learning correct could be key to ensuring a smoother digital transformation. In addition to the divide on learning investment discovered in IBM Institute for Business Value’s report, a May report from technology skills platform Pluralsight discovered a divide over the delivery of learning content. While employees tended to prefer self-paced learning, employers focused on “one-size-fits-all” solutions such as bootcamps and webinars.

By Ryan Golden