How Employee Training Partnerships Can Benefit Your Business (and What to Look for in a Partner)

Tight collaboration is paramount to improve workers' skills.

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By Eric Lloyd

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

CEOs must feel like remaking their workforces is a full-time job. Recent research shows that 60% of employers said new graduates were not adequately prepared for the workforce, while other research warns that 58% of workers will need new skills to successfully do their jobs.

These findings point to an important conclusion: Executives need to make sure that their workers are continually acquiring new skills and competencies. However, this mammoth task is not something that companies can adequately perform on their own. When it comes to training, companies must embrace partnerships with institutions that can deliver the skills their employees need to power their companies forward.

Some of these skills will be industry-specific, whether it's operating a lathe or coding in Python. Others will revolve around digital marketing skills or data analytics. Still, others will be more general business — the foundational skills employers want employees to have from day one, whether it's putting together a proposal, understanding a budget or effectively working with Excel. This is where a training partner comes in.

Related: You Should Invest In Upskilling Your Changing Workforce. Here's Why.

What to look for in a training partner

Executives should look for a training partner who will listen to their needs and be willing to grow and pivot with them over time to develop relevant programming. After all, what a company needs today might not be what it needs 2 years, 3 years or 5 years down the road.

Given the ever-changing business landscape, the right training partner can be useful in helping companies "see around corners." Companies should pick a training partner that is constantly analyzing market trends and is in regular contact with multiple companies and CEOs. In this way, the partner can help the company understand what other companies are seeing and what trends are taking shape — and then work to develop the right programming to help keep their workforce competitive.

It helps if the training partner has actual industry practitioners leading programs so companies are working and collaborating with instructors who are living and breathing industry issues on a daily basis. Likewise, a regional training partner — one with a physical presence near your company — is more likely to have their finger on the pulse of business needs in the region than a nationwide online learning provider with no local presence.

It's also worth mentioning that there tend to be better results and outcomes when learners come to class in person and participate, face-to-face with other people versus online-only learning. The networking opportunities are also much stronger in person. Because of this, there are advantages to selecting a training partner in your backyard.

Related: How Organizations Stand to Gain a Lot By Reskilling Employees

Other offerings to look for

Regarding what kind of educational offerings to look for from a training partner, stackable credentials represent the future of professional development and continuous learning.

In some organizations, providing tuition reimbursement so that an employee can pursue a master's degree is being replaced with professional development dollars that support continuous learning. For those organizations, it makes sense to look for a training partner that offers a series of certifications and credentials that an employee can use to immediately gain fluency in a certain area and then build on over time. Think of an employee who takes a quick social media marketing course to top off their skills in this area and then takes enough additional marketing and business offerings over the span of a year or two to essentially accumulate a mini-MBA.

This brings up another important point: When seeking out an ideal training partner, executives should look for a certain degree of rigor. This is not the time to partner with an institution where everyone gets a participation trophy just for showing up.

Is the training partner taking a hard look at attendance, participation and level of understanding of the material? When an employee walks away from a certificate program in a particular area, can they put that skill set into practice? CEOs rightfully expect that if they're investing in professional development, there will be a return on that investment in the form of enhanced skills. That ROI is important because skills are becoming obsolete faster than ever. The half-life of a skill today is around five years, meaning that the skill could be half as valuable five years from now as it is today.

By embracing training partnerships, CEOs can proactively tackle the ongoing reskilling and upskilling challenge. In today's fast-evolving business environment, that's an investment that companies can't afford not to make.

Eric Lloyd

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Executive Director of Denison Edge

Eric Lloyd is the Executive Director of Denison Edge, a provider of stackable skills and credentials for today's worker affiliated with Denison University in Granville, OH. Eric has a BS in Electrical Engineering from Ohio University and an MBA from Otterbein University.

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