Survey Findings and Training Outlook

Wide Recognition of Compliance as a Training Driver

Finding: Compliance with external requirements strongly motivates investment in training.

Licensing and certification needs continue to drive training dollars. A dramatically higher percentage of overall respondents acknowledged this need in 2020 (93%) than five years ago (73%). Of healthcare respondents, 25% said their investment in staff development and training was too low.

Takeaway: This external driver has powerful internal benefits too. Compliance can preserve the organization’s reputation and fiscal strength by maintaining quality ratings and avoiding government-imposed financial penalties. It also can boost staff confidence and competence, aiding retention and supporting high-quality service.

COVID-19 Insights: Most healthcare organizations are increasing (33%) or maintaining (54%) training spending. Organizations tend to be increasing training for existing front-line employees (healthcare 54%, public safety 27%) more than they are increasing compliance-driven training or new-hire training. This shows recognition of the value of training to be prepared for and navigate within a crisis.

In 2020, 93% of respondents are investing in training to support licensing and certification needs, an increase of 27% from respondents in 2015. Most organizations (72%) in the initial survey reported that more than half of their training over the past 12 months was aimed at satisfying compliance requirements.

Most Training for Compliance Purposes

Q: How much of total training done at your organization in the last 12 months was done to satisfy compliance requirements versus being done solely for organizational performance improvement? (Note: percentage who answered, “more than half”)

Graph: most training done for compliance purposes

Training Extremely Important for Licensing and Certification Requirements

Q: How important is it for staff development and training programs to support the licensing or certification needs of your staff?
Graph: Training extremely important for licensing and compliance

Priorities in Staff Development and Training

Finding: Most respondents see strong value in staff development and training, and they identified topics related to interpersonal skills and job competencies as priority needs.

Although compliance is a big driver, respondents strongly recognized the need for staff development that supports front-line interactions with the people receiving services.

Takeaway: Survey participants indicate a need for training related to leadership, communication, and competency, especially in infection control, mental health, and trauma-informed care.

COVID-19 Insights: Training was deemed highly important to even more respondents during the pandemic (healthcare 91%, public safety 83%) than in the February pre-COVID-19 survey. Respondents working in post-acute care (74%) are significantly more likely to report increased importance than those in health and human services (53%), payers and insurers (56%), pre-acute and acute care (55%), and public safety (39%). Healthcare is prioritizing infection control, pandemic planning, employee wellness and self-care, and telehealth; public safety is prioritizing employee wellness and self-care, pandemic planning, and infection control.

The majority (84%) of respondents believe that staff development and training are highly important, a belief that is consistent across organizations of all sizes, from small (87%) to medium (84%) to large (84%).

Biggest Training Needs

  • Clinical competencies
  • Infection control
  • Leadership
  • Direct care
  • Ethics
  • Regulatory compliance
  • Nursing
  • Mental health
  • Time management
  • Trauma-informed care
  • Documentation skills

Evaluating Use of Training on the Job

Finding: Organizations are not widely using their systems to evaluate the effectiveness of training, even though many respondents use online training and tracking.

Many organizations (healthcare 61%, public safety 40%) are using online systems for more than half of their training. However, less than half of respondents (41%) indicated positive or well-developed methods of evaluating whether training is put in practice on the job. More than a third of respondents still use paper or word processing files for tracking training.

Takeaway: Tracking the completion of training and analyzing its effectiveness on the job are areas ripe for improvement. Because the use of learning management systems is growing (44% in 2020 vs. 33% in 2017), learning and development leaders should consider ways to use those systems to tie training to performance and impact on business objectives.

COVID-19 Insights: Many respondents noted a major or moderate shift toward online training (healthcare 76%, public safety 82%). In the healthcare sector, an LMS was the most common new method of tracking training (24%); in public safety, database (23%) and LMS (21%) tracking were the methods adopted most often. At the same time, 84% of healthcare respondents said their organizations were prepared to deliver online training, and they ranked communication, online options, and flexibility as top strengths of their training and development.


Graph: healthcare training across different devices

Survey respondents overwhelmingly consider staff training and development critical (84%), and most (71%) feel they are investing adequately. More than half (61%) of these organizations are using online training for more than half of the training they conduct, with two-thirds (66%) of organizations implementing some of that training on mobile devices. Almost half (41%) indicate they have reasonably well-developed methods in place to evaluate whether what is taught is put into practice on the job, up from 26% in 2017.

While 61% of organizations are using online platforms to conduct most their training, only 1 out of 6 (16%) have moved to conducting most training on mobile devices.

Training's Influence on Reaching Business Goals

Finding: Less than half of healthcare respondents indicated that training directly affects the organization’s financial results, and that area ranked lowest when they identified areas where training showed positive results.

Although most respondents (76%) said training has a positive impact on business goals, they are not clearly recognizing financial results from the investment. Only 43% said training directly impacts the organization’s financial results, and that was slightly lower than the 45% in 2017. Training was seen to have the most impact on compliance, core staff clinical competencies, and risk management.

Takeaway: Executives should ensure that learning and development professionals are aware of high-level goals. Then they can use their systems to measure the effectiveness of training and link that to outcome measures to show a return on investment.

COVID-19 Insights: With almost half of respondents (47%) noting a major change in the use of online training during the pandemic, online tracking becomes more feasible as well. As noted, more healthcare organizations are now using an LMS to track their training (24%).

Impact of Staff Development/Training on Business Areas

Graph: Impact of training on business areas

Most respondents (76%) believe that staff development and training notably impact top business goals—76% of professionals in healthcare and 74% of those in public safety organizations. When it comes to how training translates to the bottom line, healthcare respondents believe training has had a direct effect on financial results—63% report at least some impact. Yet financial results were ranked at the bottom of the list of eleven impacts respondents could choose from. While only 21% report that staff development programs have had a significantly positive impact on their financial picture, only 7% report a specifically negative impact.

Impact of Staff Development/Training on Top Business Goals

Graph: Impact of staff development on business goals

These results suggest that most organizations find value in training, but they are still struggling to demonstrate how their training boosts performance and improves business outcomes to produce a return on investment. The ability to link staff training with bottom-line organizational results could affect the available funding for learning and development.

Targeted Training and Staff Development

Finding: More than half (58%) of respondents said their organizations provide recommendations for individualized staff development and training for all employees as part of the annual performance review and evaluation system.

One-fifth (20%) said they provide individualized recommendations for only some employees as part of the performance review process. Of those, the types of employees receiving recommendations are clinical staff, certified nursing assistants, direct care staff, licensed staff, managers and supervisors, nurses, employees with low performance, and staff needing specialized training.

Takeaway: Employees involved in patient care are most likely to receive individualized staff development recommendations. Consider the potential positive effects on retention and engagement if supervisors provided staff development recommendations for all job roles in the future.

When listing the training they desire to see in their organizations, professionals in healthcare and public safety organizations agreed in many areas, including opportunities for leadership development.

Biggest Training Needs by Industry


  • Safety
  • Compliance
  • Trauma-informed care
  • Technology
  • Best practices
  • Leadership
  • Evidence-based practices

Public safety

  • Communications
  • Customer service
  • Mental health
  • Leadership
  • Trauma-informed care
  • Safety

COVID-19 Insights: Training priorities brought to light during the pandemic are infection control, pandemic planning, and employee wellness in healthcare and public safety, with different weight given to those top priorities in each sector, as noted previously.

Adapting to Shifts in the Macroenvironment

Finding: The impact of changes in the external macroenvironment on staff development and training needs was unclear to many.

Many respondents indicated uncertainty and doubt about how changes in the external environment might affect their training programs. For those who acknowledged the potential effects, they focused on funding, laws, insurance, and technology.

Takeaway: COVID-19 has proven that unexpected events and external factors can dramatically affect training requirements. Those organizations with a strong, yet flexible staff development and training program in place can pivot when needed and refocus education content to match changing service demands.

COVID-19 Insights: In the June survey amid the pandemic, even fewer respondents (healthcare 27%, and public safety 22%) expected substantial changes to staff development and training than in the February survey before the pandemic (healthcare 31%, public safety 28%), and most were still unsure in June (healthcare 57%, public safety 59%). However, of those who did expect changes, many described COVID-19 as having a very or extremely notable impact (healthcare 65%, public safety 73%).

Approximately one-third (31%) of respondents in February expected changes in the macroenvironment to affect training and development. They expected changes in areas such as funding, laws, insurance, and technology to have a potential impact on what training programs look like in the future.

Influential Macroenvironment Changes

  • Available funding
  • Changes in state/federal requirements
  • Economic factors
  • Managed care
  • Medicare changes
  • Insurance requirements
  • Licensing regulations
  • Technology changes

Next: Findings for Healthcare Sectors

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