SumTotal Blog

Create Training Programs Your Employees Will Love

March 15, 2022 | by SumTotal Blog | 5 min read

Have you tried flipping your approach to learning and development initiatives at your organization? Instead of creating programs that satisfy a compliance checklist, what about designing them around the employee experience? By providing employees with training that helps them reach career and business goals, your participation will change from mandatory to voluntary.

Tailoring learning opportunities for every employee is more important than ever in the face of the Great Resignation, and elective participation is the new holy grail. This renewed focus on creating programs that employees get excited about participating in serves as one of the most important indicators of an organization’s maturity.


With a basis in years of research, our Organizational Maturity Index has nine key indicators that identify where your business is in its maturity transformation:

  1. People-centric culture
  2. HR’s role and people strategy
  3. Organizational alignment and curation strategy
  4. Employee experience
  5. Technology infrastructure
  6. Elective participation
  7. Governance
  8. Funding
  9. Reporting and measuring

In this blog, we focus on just one indicator: elective participation.

The SumTotal Organizational Maturity Index shows that the most mature organizations are focused on upskilling their workforce in a way that strategically manages employees’ long-term career development and improves their daily work experience.

If you’re looking to mature your operations, it’s time to consider digital transformation as you build a future-ready workforce. Instead of siloed learning, talent, and workforce functions, a mature organization has a collaborative and transparent culture that focuses on the employee experience Employees highly value training and professional development — in fact, over half of millennials say this is a very important factor when considering a new job. which, in turn, makes it easier to create better employee training programs.

Want to know where your organization stands? Assess your maturity by downloading our eBook, The 5 Stages of Organizational Maturity, and completing the SumTotal organizational maturity index diagnostic tool.


Employees highly value training and professional development — in fact, over half of millennials say this is a very important factor when considering a new job. According to a LinkedIn Global Talent Trends report, companies that are rated highly for employee training have 53% lower attrition than companies with lower ratings.

For busy employees, training is easiest when learning in the flow of work. A good learning management platform can integrate the act of learning into a normal working day, which will not only increase elective participation but ensure employees are developing the skills your organization needs to meet your business objectives.

Keep in mind that this is a long-term initiative, not something you should expect to accomplish overnight. The biggest barrier to a new learning program is securing the participation and adoption of each line of business (LOB) — for a learning program to be successful, you’ll need buy-in from employees and their leaders.

Without this, you won’t see the benefits of your work. In addition to worrying about losing autonomy over their time, managers and employees may feel that mandated development training takes them away from their primary job responsibilities.

Learn more: 7 Steps to Building a Governance Model for Shared Learning


Organizations that prioritize employee experience see higher elective participation in their learning and development programs. Instead of designing your training to satisfy a checklist for HR compliance, focus on supporting employees’ skill development, performance, and career goals.


In a less mature organization, low elective participation rates are common. Such organizations rely on mandatory participation to complete training, or look to the most self-motivated individuals in the organization.

An HR team in a less mature organization typically approaches participation more traditionally by trying to “sell” the training. The success of these marketing efforts determines the amount of elective participation.


In a more mature organization, learning and development programs are created using employee data from HR tools. The HR team recommends learning paths that are contextual to each employee’s job, and the focus is on growing skills and careers — which makes it more compelling for employees to voluntarily pursue training.


People learn in different ways, so it’s important to make your learning programs accessible to anyone. Keep in mind that most people enjoy learning in different styles —instead of solely offering in-person or virtual classes led by an instructor, consider other formats like podcasts, reading material, and hands-on experience so your employees can switch it up according to their preference.

A core component of encouraging elective participation is relevance. With this in mind, you’ll need to ensure that all learning programs are contextual to employees’ current or future jobs. Personalized learning avoids having all employees focus on high-level concepts that may not help them.

Finally, change the way you talk about performance. Performance reviews are traditionally a stressful annual event, but using them as a starting point for learning will help you improve the employee experience and upskill your workforce.

Learn more: Improving Performance Reviews


Strategically aligning your employees’ career and job goals with those of the wider organization will increase elective participation rates across your learning and development initiatives. Try recommended learning paths and diversify your training options to support all learning styles.

Looking to dive deeper? Read our eBook on the 5 Stages of Organizational Maturity to learn how elective participation connects to other indicators and what you can do to become a future-ready company.

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