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Are traditional training initiatives still relevant?

The ways people learn are so varied that standard training programmes just don't cut it anymore

The culture of working life is being radically transformed; we are now seeing a technology-enabled, values-driven, mobile workforce who plan their careers in two to three year cycles. In this new environment internal training and employee engagement initiatives have often failed to keep up with the times and match what workers are looking for from companies.

To attract the best talent HR needs to have a more nimble and innovative approach. A recent study showed that more than half of millennials were disappointed by a lack of personal development when starting a role. Employees are looking for a purpose as well as a job, so we must focus on making the time spent at a company the best possible experience.

When looking at training it is vital to realise that the ways people develop, and their learning requirements, are not prescriptive. Enrolling staff on a standard training programme with sessions that only cater to one type of learning style will not work across the board. Therefore we need a personalised approach to training and should offer a range of frequent learning opportunities, such as online seminars, visits to start-ups, hackathons, innovation days, digital workshops, coding classes, secondments and coaching.

In fast-moving industries, such as marketing, we also need a new way of looking at how we develop our people with the digital skills they need. If we are not able to keep up with developments in technology then it is worth investing in partnerships. Some of the larger technology companies, as well as smaller start-ups known for innovation, offer externships for a short period of time that provide a practical alternative to running and continually updating internal training courses.

Encouraging volunteering is another way to move development outside of traditional classroom-based settings. At MEC we offer a number of programmes that encourage employees to get involved in the community, from mentoring local school children to taking part in an annual away day where staff give up their time to help a local charity. Workers not only get the chance to give back, but these activities also help develop valuable skills that cannot be taught in traditional settings.

To ensure we provide the right development to all our people we also need to understand their needs and make sure they see themselves as culturally matched for the organisation. Interview questions about culture and company values can easily be incorporated into the recruitment process, or alternatively we can centre the hiring process around this challenge. Recently at a major advertising festival in New York we ran the MEC Live Hire, a live-hiring recruitment process aimed at graduates. In just one day we interviewed and made job offers to 10 candidates. Using a behaviour-led approach to assessing cultural fit enabled us to be more effective in identifying and securing top talent.

By ensuring that candidates are able to thrive behaviourally in an organisation we can move away from offering purely skills-based training programmes and instead create a culture where people flourish and develop themselves professionally and personally. There must be a balance of what they need to know now, and what will sustain them for the future. A key part of this is empowering and enabling our staff to incorporate wider goals into their work lives. At MEC UK all employees receive an annual personal fund that they can spend on a new experience such as photography lessons, writing a book, or learning karate. By enhancing their experience with the company we are also helping them to develop as rounded individuals.

The time someone spends at an organisation needs to be considered as time to build a career and develop skills. Our profession needs to stay relevant and must be able to drive the change in the culture and capability of our companies. We must embrace new methods to recruit and train and ensure that talent management develops our people as individuals with work/life harmony.

Marie-Claire Barker is chief talent officer at MEC