Engage Employees by Creating a Learning Culture

December 15, 2019

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5 Steps to Reskilling Your Workforce!

Contributed by: Shelley Osborne, Head of L&D, Udemy

It’s become cliché to say your company has a “fast-paced environment.” The phrase used to be something only found in job descriptions for tech startups, but now it pretty much applies to all organizations.

As job functions change due to artificial intelligence, automation, and myriad forces impacting how we work, forward-thinking companies are adapting the way they operate in order to remain competitive. The smartest ones are also rethinking how they prioritize learning and development (L&D) in this age of continuous reskilling.

Training can no longer be a scheduled event that disrupts the regular work day. Instead, companies can reap greater benefits from in-the-moment learning that’s woven into the fabric of daily life. Moreover, companies that recruit motivated learners will benefit from their ability to adapt to new job demands, while more inflexible employers will need to continually swap out workers whose skills are obsolete in favor of costly and time-consuming new hires.

This is what we mean when we talk about companies with a learning culture, but it doesn’t happen by magic. It takes deliberate and thoughtful action to create the conditions where learning becomes a strategic asset.

  1. Establish a safe culture

A healthy learning culture can only exist in a healthy overall culture, where people feel comfortable saying “I need to learn,” without being judged or second-guessed. Workers won’t take this initiative if they fear being labeled under skilled or underperforming. In reality, they’re showing a genuine desire to get better at their jobs and become more valuable contributors.

At a time when unemployment is at historic lows and companies are competing fiercely for talent, it just makes sense to upskill the people you already have and to nurture a growth mindset in all of your employees. For that to happen, lifelong learning needs to start in the C-suite.

“It just makes sense to upskill the people you already have and to nurture a growth mindset in all of your employees. For that to happen, lifelong learning needs to start in the C-suite.”

  1. Support career development, not just skills

People don’t expect to stay in the same role indefinitely. They’re looking to employers for career development, and if they don’t get it, they will go elsewhere to find it. Millennials are already the largest generation in the workforce, and these younger workers want opportunities to develop their skill sets on the job.

Career paths aren’t linear anymore, however, so a more fluid approach fits today’s dynamic workplace better. Keeping paths open for people to move between teams and functions, for example, lets you accomplish two cost-saving measures at once: retaining the institutional knowledge of longtime employees while leveraging their expertise to generate fresh, innovative ideas for driving the business forward.

  1. Empower your people

Given the pace of change—of technologies, job functions, business conditions, and so on—there’s no way the L&D team can stay on top of everyone’s learning needs. The days of L&D assigning training sessions are over.

Employees know better than anyone else what they need to learn and when they need to learn it. So, give them the freedom to do it!

In a true learning culture, L&D serves as facilitators, not “owners” of learning. By listening to employees and building relationships based on trust, L&D can support workers in their quest for knowledge and skills by connecting them to resources, which, in turn, supports the business.

  1. Prioritize soft skills

Not only should employees be able to learn outside their strict job function, they shouldn’t be limited to learning hard skills. Sure, programmers need to keep up with the latest languages and frameworks, and marketers need to understand new automation tools and SEO strategies. But without the requisite soft skills, employees can’t reach their full potential, and neither can your company.

Soft skills include things that won’t be automated like leadership, communication, and team-building. Employees crave instruction in these areas, particularly millennials who aspire to move into management roles or are already there but need more guidance.

As the saying goes, people don’t leave jobs, they leave managers. In a learning culture, people at all levels strive to improve their soft skills, so they’re not just good at performing a job function—they also become the type of teammates and leaders who bring out the best in others. This boosts employee engagement, satisfaction, and retention.

  1. Revisit the org chart

Empowering workers to self-manage their learning experiences doesn’t put the L&D team out of business. Indeed, it elevates their influence and impact by transforming them from being “the trainers” to being the drivers of a key competitive advantage and deserving of a seat at the executive table.

Learning-driven organizations tend to be more efficient, create more customer value and market leadership, and report higher customer satisfaction too, according to Bersin & Associates’ “High-Impact Learning Culture” report. They can move faster and experiment more.

It’s daunting to face the prospect of constantly reskilling your workforce to stay afloat in a rapidly changing business landscape. Instilling a learning culture will remove much of the friction, so people don’t feel saddled with training requirements but, instead, are empowered to learn and grow so your company can too.


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