“Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.” Albert Einstein sure knew what he was talking about here. One great myth about education is that once you have the degree in hand, you can check that box off and move forward without having to spend another day in a classroom. The reality is that formal education teaches us how to learn once we are released into our new habitat, the workforce.
Many people enter their professional lives seeking a career that offers great earning potential. What should be similarly considered is finding a position that offers high learning potential. The former provides financial stability and a sense of security, while the latter prevents a job from becoming stagnant and enhances an employee’s overall feelings of competency and worth. Einstein also said, “Once you stop learning, you start dying.” Though not necessarily intended in a literal sense, this rings true on many levels. Without the opportunity for growth and continued intellectual stimulation, the likeliness of complacency and job burnout increase significantly.
Humans innately have a strong need for growth, and this extends into our time in the workforce. If most people are going to spend at least a third of their adult lives working, they want to be consistently learning and growing at an individual level. Not only do employees want skills training, but they also desire professional and personal development from their organization. They want their organization to provide them with opportunities for advancement, such as challenging job assignments and promotions. When employees view their organizations as supportive, they are more likely to be committed to and involved in their jobs and less likely to experience job stress and emotional exhaustion.
There are several possible strategies for enhancing the education and career growth experiences of your employees. Dr. Jack Wiley suggests HR leaders take the following actions into consideration when planning these initiatives.
Benchmark against the competition. Be aware of what similar organizations are doing for their employees’ education and career growth. This can help maintain a competitive education and career program for your employees.
Evaluate existing training programs. Identify gaps in employee training and related training needs by conducting a training needs analysis. Training and development programs should be evaluated and revised on an ongoing basis to maximize their benefits and take advantage of the latest best practices and technology. All training should be evaluated both on the process (e.g., content, delivery) and outcomes (e.g., employee reactions, impact on ROI). Ask employees what they like and dislike about the current training and development opportunities to shed light on any improvements that can be made.
Market training opportunities effectively. Employees often need a reminder to complete their training goals. Communicate proactively to engage employees, send reminders to complete mandatory courses and persuade employees to make time for additional opportunities. Training and development opportunities can be communicated through a variety of channels, such as internal emails, banner ads on internal websites, promotion on the company’s social channels, posters and flyers and by promoting training opportunities at other company events.
It's vital to embrace individual differences whenever feasible. Everyone brings a unique background and skill set to the table, and by acknowledging this and encouraging employees to explore their own personal interests as they pertain to your organization, your bottom line will reap the rewards. One final bit of advice from Albert Einstein: “Education is not the learning of facts, it’s rather the training of the mind to think.” Arm your employees with the knowledge, skills and tools they need through learning and development initiatives, and they’ll be eager and able to tackle new obstacles and contribute to lasting organizational success.
NOTE: This is part of a blog series based on Dr. Jack Wiley’s paper Suggested Actions for Human Resources to Create a Better Employee Experience. Be sure to check out the other parts of the series:
Part 4: Seeking [Job] Security
Part 5: Fundamental to Work: Fair Pay