Forever Students: Smart Ways to Inspire Employees to Pursue Continued Learning

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Big wheels keep on learnin'. Here are a few ways managers can encourage their employees to continue education in the workplace.

In business, as in all aspects of life, it’s important to continue to learn new things and develop new skills.

Despite the fact that an employee enters the workforce after spending the majority of their time in schools, all of that education is really preparation for the real learning that comes with work experience.

The employer should encourage and reward the continued learning and development of its employees.

As a part of the management or human resources teams, it’s your job to make sure your group is not only motivated but also inspired to expand their knowledge base and be the best workers they can be. It’s up to management to enable the ongoing training and skill-building that makes great teams.

Here are a few ways department and HR managers can encourage their employees to continue their training.

Encourage Brainstorming

It’s easy to get bogged down in the routine of a job. Something has been done one way since the start of the team, and it’s still done the same way now. Encourage the incorporation of new ideas by having brainstorming sessions. Have your team come up with three new ways to change an old process, and then discuss which would be the best development to institute as a team. Encouraging out-of-the-box thinking and open conversation will lead to great new ideas and to team bonding as well.

Invite Open Discussion About Successes and Failures

More than half of U.S. employees are unhappy at work. Many times, especially in large companies, employees tend to keep their gripes to themselves, not because they think voicing the opinion is bad but more because there’s no venue that seems appropriate. It’s important for an organization to learn from both its mistakes and its successes, the mistakes so you know how to fix them in the future, and the successes so you can continue to build on that success for upcoming projects and endeavors.

This kind of open forum for discussion can be done on a large scale for company policies, new structure and benefits. Similarly, each team can have its own open-floor meeting to talk about role responsibilities, team projects and management feedback. It’s crucial for a manager to be able to hear from his or her team. Discussion facilitates change.

Suggest Learning Opportunities

Forty-four percent of Americans engage in continuing education, but that is not high enough. As the manager, it’s your job to guide your team and be a resource for anything they may need. Give yourself the role of ambassador when it comes to professional learning:

  • Scan the trades, headlines, and professional organizations for continued education programs or useful resources and compile a list to send out to your team.
  • By taking the initiative to promote conferences, courses for new certifications, or online resources that could develop your team’s skills, you’ll be demonstrating you want everyone to be on the same page when it comes to continued learning.

Start a Mentoring Program

For entry-level employees or interns, coming into an office setting can be intimidating. When teams are already close, projects are in mid-stream, and everyone already has a few years of work experience, a new, younger employee can feel left out and can miss out on crucial experience and learning opportunities. Nip a bad experience in the bud by instituting a company-wide mentoring program. Almost 90 percent of successful businesspeople say mentoring was invaluable for them.

Keep a list of current employees who volunteer to mentor a young hire. Each time an intern or entry-level hire comes into the picture, assign them a mentor from their department to show them the ropes for the first few weeks or months. You’ll encourage team bonding, and your new hire will be able to ask questions and learn quickly from someone who knows the lay of the land. Plus,

Get Specific About Individual Development

Utilize your team’s annual reviews to encourage professional development. Think carefully about each member of your team, their responsibilities, and where they could advance by learning new skills. Be sure not to present continued education as a criticism. Let your employee know they’re doing a great job, but getting a new certification or attending an industry event or seminar could take their career to the next level.

Suggesting specific courses of action for each team member shows you’re not only thinking about their professional evolution on your team, but you’re also paying attention to their potential for their entire career.

Tie Continued Training to KPIs

If you’re really aiming to get everyone on your team involved in continued learning, make it a goal for the year or the quarter. If you require each team member to attend at least one seminar and two conferences, they’ll have to attend. This can get tricky, because making events mandatory can make them seem like a chore, but if you designate the full team to attend a public speaking class or a conference in San Diego, the experience will also function as team bonding.

Professional learning should always be encouraged in the workplace. The development of employees’ skills and knowledge leads overall to a better, healthier company and happier employees.


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