Education and training in the workplace is often tied to elements of professional development and growth. However, it does hold some importance to workplace and workforce health by itself that requires further discussion. The inclusion of education in the workplace is often done for the benefit of the business, but employees are actually the ones who have a more immediate benefit. In general, it's something that is recommended because it does produce beneficial results for everyone.
This article will explore education and training in the workplace and what it can do for the health of the workforce. Topics will include the options available for education and training efforts, who is responsible for workplace education, and the impacts that it can have on the workplace and health when properly used. What employers can do to encourage education and training will also be discussed in this article.
Training and education in the workplace can apply to any number of things-and not all of them are actually found or occur in the workplace. Some businesses include education options as a part of your employment. These are usually some kind of training that is necessary for you to do your job and might be a requirement that is disclosed when you are first hired or applying for the position. Other options may just be things that are professionally beneficial and can give a person an added boost in the business world. There may also be education and training options that become necessary due to certain circumstances. Whatever the case, education and training have become a fairly common standard in business if you want to have a proficient workforce.1
Some of the options that you may encounter in the workplace include:
Continuing/Higher Education-Continuing or higher education usually refers to college or other degree achieving programs. This option is going to be something that is profession-specific and can be found outside of the workplace. People choose to continue their education all the time, returning to school sometimes years after they thought they were done. Those who want to further their career will often choose to seek additional formal education opportunities, like getting their master's degree in their appropriate field.
Equipment Certifications-Legally, there are some things that a person must have the proper training in order to do. The operation of major equipment, for example, requires formal training and certification before an employee is allowed to use it as a part of their job. Businesses are required by OSHA to have properly trained and certified employees, with punishments like fines if they do not do so.3 In some cases, a person will not be hired if they do not have all of the proper certifications needed for a position, but some businesses will offer the training for those who either do not have the certification or who need it renewed.
Safety Training- workplace safety is rather important. There are education options available for businesses who need to improve the safety practices used in the workplace. Like with equipment certifications, safety protocols are required under law by OSHA and employees and employers alike are expected to abide by the rules.5 Safety training is often a great opportunity to introduce proper protocols for any kind of hazard that may be encountered in the workplace. It can also apply to preparation instructions for emergency events, like fires or accidents.
Position-Specific Training-Certain jobs require training and education that is specific to that position in the company. This kind of training can be similar to orientation, but with a narrower focus and student(s) who are not necessarily new to the business. Employees who are promoted may need additional training in order to complete tasks and responsibilities that come with their new position, and may not be able to formally begin their new job until the complete their training.
In many cases, the responsibility for educational and training efforts in the workplace depend on the kind of training. Higher education, for example, is usually the responsibility and choice of the individual employee, although some employers do encourage it. Any kind of training that is required by law and/or by an employer should be provided to employees by the employer. There is an incentive for employers to do this in some cases, as they can be severely punished if they do not ensure that their employees are trained up to OSHA's standards. If they do not provide the training in-house, they at least make arrangements for the employees to do it elsewhere.
The responsibility might not fall so clearly with other options. Training for certifications may be required for a position, but an employer often does not have to provide it even though they are the ones who request it. Diversity training or training for specific circumstances are often up to the discretion of the employer to offer, but employees do have the choice to find courses and classes on those topics if they want to learn more about them. The choice for some training options are available to both the employer and the employee, but neither requires the other to seek them out. If you choose such an option, then the responsibility lies with you.
Education and training are not introduced to the workplace without a good reason. Often, whomever is bringing them into the workplace to begin with-employers, employees, or both-have a specific purpose in mind for doing so. The goal, typically, is to generate some kind of improvement for the businesses and its components. In some cases, that improvement is intended for the health of the workplace and the workforce. However, those areas can still benefit even if they are not the intended targets. Some of those benefits include:
Reduces Stress-Education is designed to help people be better, not just get better at doing something. They are given tools and resources that help them in their work, which makes things easier for them to do. This helps reduce some of an employee's work-related stress, as there's less concerns about what they are doing and if they are doing it right. Certain kinds of training, like those for diversity and safety, also provide employees with the tools necessary to collaborate and protect themselves from harm in the workplace. That safety lifts away a mental burden that produces stress.
Personal Development-By its nature, education is a means of improving oneself.6 It allows an employee to further develop their skills and abilities, and allows them to grow personally and professionally. The progression that education provides is a booster for growth and many employees seek out education opportunities for themselves as much as they do for their career.7
Improved Satisfaction-Offering opportunities for education and training is another way for businesses and employers to show their appreciation for their employees. Employees, in turn, view it as their employer's willingness to invest in them and their skills.9 This often results in employee satisfaction with their work, bosses, and themselves, which impacts other parts of the business (e.g. engagement, productivity, etc.). Keep in mind that satisfied employees tend to be happier and more likely to stay than those who are not satisfied.
Fewer Safety Risks-Specifically when it comes to training about the business (e.g. orientation, position-specific) and safety education, risk factors for mistakes and safety hazards can decrease. People are less likely to make potentially dangerous mistakes when they know what they are doing and what they should not do. The same kind of education options can also provide employees with the tools and knowledge of what to do during emergencies, which can also help reduce safety risks during those events. Fire drills, for example, are designed to provide people with information about what to do, where to go, and who they should turn to for help in that particular environment.
While employers are not completely responsible for all education and training options available to their employees, they can take action to encourage employees to seek out those options. Some people don't want to seek out those options or they don't have the means to do so without assistance. There is also sometimes resistance to training and education efforts within the business from employees, as sessions interfere with daily operations and can sometimes be boring or outside of their interests. Putting in the effort to get employees to want to seek out those options on their own or be more enthusiastic about complying with those they are required to do can help everyone reap the benefits that education and training offer.
Some strategies that employers can use include:
Offer Incentives-While some view incentives as simple bribery, there are some real benefits in doing so. In some cases, incentives can be an opportunity for an employee to improve themselves that they are not able to get elsewhere.10 Offering time off for course work or tuition-reimbursement programs can open up doors for some people. An incentive, like a benefit that comes with having the new skill or certification, could also work as motivation for an employee who doesn't see the appeal in additional training.
Job Requirements-Some employers sneak training and education in as requirements that their employees need for their job. These can include certifications and training that may be needed to do certain tasks, but it can also include training on topics that are designed to improve the business and workplace. Employers often make certain kinds of training a requirement in an effort to address skill gaps and to empower employees.11 They can target certain areas or persons who need help the most by telling them that they have to complete a training session or two on a topic, preferably without forcing them to under duress (Note: Do not threaten your employees, please!).
Go With Variety--There are different learning styles out there and not everyone learns in the same way. There is sometimes resistance to training in the workplace because it is done in only one way, which can make it difficult for some employees to actually gain anything from it.12 Going with only one style can kind of defeat the purpose of offering training and educational opportunities in the first place, as you're not actually getting everyone on the same page. Employers should consider offering training and education options that utilize different learning styles in order to adapt to the needs of the employees who will use them.
Coaching and Mentoring-Not all education and training methods in the business world need to be a formal class or course session. Coaching and mentoring are also valid ways of educating employees on certain topics vital to their jobs, and are often much more focused and personalized than the other options.13 There are also some things that cannot be easily taught in a formal setting. Those who coach and mentor others tend to have experiences and knowledge that only they can share, which means that they can offer a unique education not found elsewhere.