HR Strategic Planning: Taking Deliberate Action, Post #8 ~ Christina Stewart

No Train, No Gain

Why Lifelong Learning Matters for You and Your Employees

Providing employees with Learning and Development is essential for both your business and for their engagement and happiness
Let’s continue our HR Strategic planning discussion on using training as a tool.

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There’s a saying that that goes like this:
The CFO asks the CEO: “What happens if we invest in developing our people and they leave us?”
The CEO responds: “What happens if they stay and we don’t?”

The answer is so obvious, it goes without saying. If business leaders don’t invest in learning and development for their employees, we get stagnated workforces and a marked decrease in the quality of work. Conversely, when business leaders promote lifelong learning in their work teams, we get vastly increased morale, increased capacity to cope with day to day work stresses, improved team performance, and improved employer trust. All of which leads to improved loyalty for both the employee and the employer as well as huge economic benefits for both. When the employer provides opportunities for development, the company does well, the employees do well, and loyalty builds. For example, a Wendy’s restaurant in Fredericton, N.B., provided workplace literacy and essential skills (i.e. communication, critical thinking, and computer skills) training to their team members in 2013. Ownership saw reduced staff turnover to between 65% and 80%, which is down from between 125% and 150% in the two earlier years, saving the franchisee $5,000 annually in new staff training.

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More than Money

We all want our businesses to experience profitability but often we want more. We want our business to mean something significant to our customers and to our teams. Developing employees by training and teaching and offering learning opportunities allows us to create both profit and meaning within our workforce.
So, by now we agree that a great way to retain staff and nurture employee skills is to consistently and actively promote learning and development activities. Encouraging this kind of professional growth shows your team you care about their progress and their future, and it inspires loyalty in employees.


Get Ready, Get Set

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Before jumping in to any new initiative a little planning and coordination of goals can go a long way. Ask yourself what you want your employees to achieve – or better yet, ask them. Having individuals complete a self-assessment as a kickoff point to their own learning creates engagement from the outset. In this phase you are identifying where you are and where you want to be. The gap in between is the learning that needs to take place. Ask your team some or all of the following:
• Identify the job requirements and performance expectations of your current position
• Identify the knowledge, skills and abilities that will enhance your ability to perform your current job
• Identify and assess the impact on your position of changes taking place in the work environment such as changes in clients, programs, services and technology
• What goals do you want to achieve in your career?
• Which of these development goals are mutually beneficial to you and your organization?
Ask your employees to set two or three goals using the tried and true SMART method (Specific, Measurable, Action-Oriented, Realistic and Timely.) One way of helping them get into the goal mindset is to ask employees to view the workplace as a curriculum. Asking that they look at their daily tasks and responsibilities as items they must master can be a very useful mindset. In this approach, the normal workday of an employee informs what they need to learn in order to do their job most successfully. The tasks they perform become the curriculum components they need to learn, making it easy to set identifiable goals. Employees should also set a target length of time in which to master this goal before moving on to the next. This builds natural stepping-stones between the current job and the next level at the organization, as mastery of each goal can bring them closer to promotions, raises, increased responsibility, or other rewards.


Go: Inside Methods

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There are many methods to consider when implementing professional development in the workplace, however, major impediments to providing learning opportunities to employees is the cost to the business and the time to have employees offsite. However, these don’t hold much weight as there are cost-effective, in-house training opportunities within a work environment, such as:
• Job expansion; the role has been mastered so adding greater challenges
• Job shadowing; following and learning from others in the organization – maybe even you!
• Job enrichment; stretch assignments and special projects or committees
• Job rotations; temporarily being given the opportunity to work in other areas of the business
• Adding mentoring/coaching; a more experienced employee provides advice and guidance to a novice within the work site
• Peer-assisted learning; two knowledgeable employees swap the information they know in order to expand the other employee’s abilities
• Providing time for writing articles for a paper, online publication or magazine enhance the reputations of the employee as well as the organization.


Go: Outside Methods

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Implementing a quality professional development program encourages employees to continue their learning beyond the confines of the office. Outside options include footing the bill to enroll employees in formalized classes. The more specialized training or certifications that an employee receives, the more you can boast your company’s know-how and expertise. If it’s a program that many employees could benefit from consider working with the provider for internal classes or lunch and learn sessions on the topic. Consider networking at industry trade group conferences and with like-minded professionals at other organizations, joining a formal coaching or mentoring program outside of work, or earning an advanced degree.
Although some certification programs can cost an employer a pretty penny, sending an office representative to a conference or to a networking event can be an affordable alternative. Give that employee an even greater opportunity for development by presenting their learning to the organization after the event. Organizing in-house team-building events can also serve as a great method for keeping employees mentally challenged and engaged.


Everybody Wins

By encouraging a learning culture with professional certification, continuing education and association membership to increase the amount of outside education, your employees can bring back valuable knowledge into the company to share with one another. By focusing on in house opportunities to create a learning culture you expand your workforce knowledge and both your organization and your employees benefit.
Improving employees’ skills makes it easier for them to learn new ones and helps them innovate. Your learning culture is a foundation for creating better products and services, and fostering a new competitiveness and profitability. Creating a learning culture in your business is imperative for innovation, growth and economic success. The corporate return on your investment in essential skills and employee engagement is real and attainable.

Come back next week when we chat about a different HR Strategy: Recruitment!