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Employees looking for more on-the-job training

More than three quarters of Australians prefer to gain practical experience on the job, but less than half believe their current employer is providing them with the skills to progress in their careers, according to a newly published survey.  

The survey, by Kelly Services, examined the ways employees preferred to develop their skills and their motivations for doing that and found that in Australia almost two-thirds of the 5,500 employees surveyed are focusing on workplace training as a means of advancing in their careers with their existing employer.

The Australia study was part of a global survey of around 122,000 people, with the results published in the Kelly Global Workforce Index released today.

According to the KGWI, most Australians like to train on the job, with 78% preferring to develop their skills through practical experience at work, while continued education was also popular, with 56% of employees indicating this is the best way to improve their skills, followed by professional certification (32%) and structured mentoring (23%).

According to Kelly Services Managing Director Australia and New Zealand, Karen Colfer, the survey underscores how important it is for Australian businesses to continue to invest in training and development for staff.

“The latest KGWI survey highlights that training and professional development are not only essential to building workplace productivity, they also play an important role in the retention of employees.

“Almost two-thirds of Australians are focusing on workplace training as a means of advancing in their careers with their existing employer.”

But, fewer than half (44%) of Australian employees believe that the training provided by their employer allows them to upgrade their skills and progress in their career.

“The survey has highlighted a considerable gap between the preferences of Australian employees to learn on the job and their experience of workplace training,” Colfer says.

“To get the real benefits of training – both in terms of productivity and staff retention – employers need to focus on how successful the training programmes are in their workplace, and consider providing additional support or bringing in experts to help better engage their staff.”

The survey also found that 64% of Australian employees are planning to increase their skills, ahead of Canada (60%), the UK (57%) and the US (47%).

Colfer says the survey found that the key motivation for Australian employees to undertake additional training or up-skilling is the opportunity for a promotion with their current employer (64%). And, almost half (47%) believe additional training or skills development could give them the opportunity for advancement in another company, while 45% said it would give them the chance to enter a new field of work.

According to the survey, 38% of Australian employees are currently considering re-training to enter a new field of work.

“Training does provide employees with greater opportunity to move roles,” Colfer said.
“But when provided as part of a total employment package that focuses on professional development, opportunities for interesting and rewarding work, and a great employment experience, training forms a critical part of an effective retention strategy.”

According to Australian employees surveyed by Kelly, the critical skills for success in the workplace are cooperation and teamwork (81%), active listening and organisation, and attention to detail (79%).

Areas in which employees believe they need to develop include leadership (45%), bilingual skills (43%) and creativity and innovation (40%), while Mandarin Chinese, English and French are the preferred choices for employees seeking bilingual skills.

“In a challenging economic environment, employers are often forced to closely review their training budget,” says Colfer.

“This survey reinforces how important it is to continue to invest in training – particularly on the job – in order to not only support the development of the business but also maintain employee morale, performance and retention.”


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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).