Discovery Surveys, Inc.
Specializing in Employee Opinion and Customer Satisfaction Surveys
Improving the Workplace

By Bruce L. Katcher, Ph.D. President, Discovery Surveys, Inc.

1 out of 2 employees says they're not learning on the job.


Our research shows that employees are not learning on their jobs. Only 1 out of 2 feel that they are given a chance to learn new skills. This is a problem for both employees and their employers.

Here are three reasons why employees need to continue to learn new skills:

  1. Personal Development

    Without personal growth, employees stagnate and eventually burn out. Employees need to continually expand their job skills so that they can self-actualize (i.e. achieve their full personal potential).

  2. Job Performance

    Learning new job skills enables employees to provide more value to their organizations, thereby increasing their job security. And, of course, expanding one's job skills also increases the probability of promotions and raises.

  3. Marketability

    Resisting opportunities to learn new skills is tantamount to career suicide. In today's rapidly changing job market, employees must continuously upgrade their job skills so that they are able to more easily find another job when and if necessary.

Here's why employers need their employees to continue to learn new skills:

  1. Capital Improvement

    Organizations spend millions of dollars to upgrade their plants and equipment, yet precious little on upgrading their most important asset, HUMAN capital. Improvements in employee skills lead to improvements in productivity.

  2. Morale Improvement

    By continuing to upgrade their job skills, employees will improve their productivity. Just as happy employees are more productive, more productive employees are happier.

  3. Ability to Adapt to Change

    The more skilled the workforce, the easier it will be for the entire organization to adapt to changes in the demand for its products and services.


  1. Communicate the Importance of Learning

    Senior management needs to use every possible opportunity to communicate that their organization is a learning center. They need to provide resources and encouragement for all employees to continually upgrade their skills. Becoming a center for learning will help attract and retain a dedicated work force.

  2. Show Them The Money

    Establish a personnel development fund. Give each employee a set amount of money each year (e.g. $250) that can be used for any job-related learning activity such as a professional meeting, book, video, or trip to a supplier. Also, provide tuition reimbursement to enable employees to take college courses in their field.

  3. Institute a Job Rotation Program

    Develop a system whereby employees rotate between jobs. This will help upgrade their skills and gain a better understanding of the interrelationships between different jobs in the organization.

  4. Institute a Shadowing Program

    This is a program in which employees are given the opportunity to "shadow" other workers to learn their jobs.

  5. Provide a Resource Center

    Establish a center and stock it with job-related books, technical manuals, industry trade periodicals, and training videos. Allow employees to visit the center on company time.

  6. Establish Individual Personal Development

    Plans Each employee should work with his or her supervisor to develop skill improvement goals and action plans. Once established, the plan should be continually updated.

  7. Offer Retraining

    Provide employees whose skills are no longer needed with the opportunity to learn new skills required in other parts of the organization. It is much more cost-effective and socially responsible to retrain loyal employees than to lay them off and hire someone else.

  8. Develop a Cadre of "Relief" Employees

    Employees who can perform multiple jobs are very valuable because they can fill in when others are absent. Cross train employees so that they can serve as part of a special Relief Corp. Pay them extra.

  9. Promote Involvement in Company-Wide Task Forces and Committees

    Participation in company-wide teams can provide employees with important skills and increased knowledge about the organization. This practice should be encouraged for employees at all levels.

  10. Institute Skill-Based Pay

    Employees with more skills are more valuable. Pay employees based upon the amount of job-related skills they possess.

  11. Change the Orientation of Supervisors

    Instead of assuming the role of evaluator and judge, supervisors need to develop a mindset that their job is to develop, teach, and facilitate the growth of all employees. Encourage supervisors to adopt this attitude.

I am very much interested in your views on this topic.
Please reply with your comments and suggestions to .


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