Although 86% of employees say job training is essential to them, nearly 33% feel their current company-provided training doesn’t meet their expectations. Training can easily take a backseat to rush orders, critical deadlines, roadblocks, time constraints, and more. But creating a culture of learning is a critical business initiative that can’t be overlooked or undervalued.
Why? Employers that don’t provide ongoing training will inevitably fail in business. Training should no longer be viewed as a benefit but a critical survival tool.
In addition to survival, ongoing training support often results in improved employee engagement and job satisfaction, higher quality products and services, more innovation, and better succession planning. A culture of learning creates a culture of accountability, and the best employees are the ones who are constantly learning. When employees see others around them learning, they feel a natural competitiveness and sense of ownership. As you build an authentic culture of learning, you ensure you have a team filled with successful people who will continue to drive your business (and their own careers) forward.
By providing ongoing training opportunities to your employees, you’ll positively impact their morale and productivity, which benefits everyone. Here’s how to create a meaningful training program that achieves actual results:
Ask your employees what kind of development opportunities they want.
Here’s a hot tip: Do regular assessments to determine what development opportunities your team needs and wants. Add these questions to onboarding surveys with new hires, and be sure to include them in subsequent performance reviews.
Ask your employees where they would like to develop their skills more or what experiences they have encountered that additional education and training could make them better prepared for in the future. Encourage them to brainstorm and share with their managers as new ideas arise.
Be sure to also weave ongoing training into one-on-ones and manager meetings for all employees, not just new ones. Tenured employees might be interested in learning about a completely different area of your business, and you’ll never know if you don’t ask. Employees get boxed into their niche focus areas all too frequently, and no one thinks to ask if they have interests outside of their specific job functions. In reality, they might bring a wealth of knowledge or skill to cross-functional work or even a different role.
Put what you hear into practice.
Next, you should develop a strategy for implementing ongoing training based on your employees’ feedback. There will likely be a case-by-case component where you can help individuals get more of the experiences and learning opportunities they seek, perhaps by offering cross-functional projects or sponsoring external courses.
Create a learning management system (or LMS) where you can house all training and educational material for a more evergreen component. As you start seeing patterns and repeat requests, you can point people to self-guided learning, books, employee resource groups, podcasts, and other resources you develop.
Create a culture of learning something new every day.
For your training program to be successful, it has to feel authentic. By empowering employees to seek out training opportunities (and listening to what they ask for), you’ll help instill confidence in them to seek out their own development while providing the resources they need to succeed.
Your goal should be to create a culture of learning something new every day – no matter what position a person is in. You can start building culture through top-down communication, such as saying, “At least one hour of training should be completed per team member weekly,” or simply by highlighting employees in other ways through email, company meetings, etc.
There needs to be some kind of accountability for team members to keep up with ongoing training. Create a scorecard or a consistent way for them to check in, then incorporate it into monthly or quarterly departmental meetings. Even better, tie learning metrics to key performance indicators and make them part of your formal career development processes. For instance, training scorecards might be a key agenda item at quarterly performance reviews.
Another way to foster accountability is requiring departments to host weekly best-practice sessions. You can rotate topics and even give departments a chance to highlight what they do, how they do it, and their recent wins. This gives teams (and others) an appreciation for their colleagues’ work and reminds them that everyone is working together toward a common goal. Accountability must start at the top, so don’t forget to add your leadership team to the schedule.
There are many benefits of continued learning for both employees and employers, and it’s up to you to help focus your teams on career learning. Once you provide guidance, resources, and consistent accountability, you can help develop a self-sustaining culture of continued education that inspires and engages.