Does your company still function the way it would 20 years ago? Probably not. You don’t have a fax machine. There’s no floppy disk hanging out in your desk drawer, and you’ve probably got a ton of stuff on the cloud. The new, cutting-edge 3D printers just arrived and everybody in the office is excited.
Now, think about your employee training program.
Is your training agenda full of long, “one-off” learning sessions? When employees complete their onboarding and compliance training successfully, do you tick the “learning in the workplace” box and call it a day?
This isn’t a good strategy, though. Employees want lifelong learning. And the evidence is beginning to show that companies with strong learning cultures may even be more innovative and more profitable.
The importance of lifelong training for your employees
Employees understand the significance of lifelong training very well. More precisely, LinkedIn’s 2018 Workplace Learning Report showed that continuous learning in the workplace has never been so important for today’s workforce.
One explanation is that the very demographics of workers are changing. Millennials make up the majority of workers and Generation Z is close behind them. These younger employees are thirsty for lifelong learning and seek development opportunities at work. They aren’t attracted to fancy job titles and ping-pong tables. Instead, they look for jobs that can help them pursue professional growth and development.
That’s why companies who acknowledge the benefits of training employees are more appealing to them. If you’re not convinced, ask your HR manager: they’ll tell you that in employees’ minds, salary and perks go hand in hand with development opportunities in the workplace.
So, what are the reasons your employees want lifelong learning?
1. They’re used to having information at their fingertips
As part of the native digital generation, younger employees have a different relationship to learning than older generations. Surfing the web is second nature to them. Instead of asking, they google – and once they do, they have access to an unlimited knowledge base.
The internet, then, acts as a form of lifelong learning. When your employees have a question, they look it up on their phones. If they want to develop their skills, there are hundreds of online courses they can take. Your employees want lifelong training because they’re constantly learning every day, anyway. So, how do you give them that?
Forward-looking companies, who acknowledge the benefits of training employees continuously, put significant effort into it. They use digital technologies to provide employee lifelong training and make learning in the workplace as accessible as a YouTube video.
Take TELUS, for example. The Canadian telecommunications company had an employee engagement problem. They implemented a learning strategy using online tools like microblogging, video sharing, and wikis. For TELUS, the benefits of training employees in the long run were clear. In less than 10 years, they were able to raise engagement from 53% to 83%.
2. They want to contribute, not just execute
Many employees no longer want to simply execute. They want to contribute in a meaningful way to a company. They want to find new ways of approaching problems, solve these problems, and use tech to do it.
As more and more tasks become automated, employees have time to be more creative. As a result, continuous staff training on complex cognitive skills as well as digital training is a must. This way, they’ll have the advanced skills to contribute meaningfully to company operations, and they’ll feel confident that as technology changes, they’ll be prepared.
3. They want to see themselves evolve
As companies become more flexible and agile in the way they operate, fewer vertical hierarchies exist. The times when you got hired, worked hard, and earned a promotion are long gone. And yet, employees still want to evolve.
That’s where horizontal career growth comes in. It boosts efficient internal communication, seamless cross-department collaboration, and excellent task completion.
Moving horizontally in an organization doesn’t mean that employees won’t climb the corporate ladder. It means that they grasp every developmental opportunity in the workplace. So, employee lifelong training, which offers them endless opportunities for all kinds of skills, sounds like a perfect plan.
And employees don’t only aim for work-related progress. HR debates suggest that employees nowadays seek work-life balance and flexibility more than ever, and want to learn new skills and acquire cutting-edge qualifications that have nothing to do with leadership or management. If you ask them why, they’ll tell you that their true passion is to find what they’re good at.
And lifelong training is all about that.
4. They want to make an impact
Younger employee generations care about business’ motivations and ethics a lot. People want to make conscious choices. If you’re not convinced, just pay a visit to the closest supermarket. Shelves packed with sustainable and green products: less plastic, reusable straws, eco-friendly materials. And, drumroll — they sell.
This ethical stance applies to job-hopping, too. Before any job application, employees examine the company’s values and mission thoroughly. They look into their internal policies and regulations, and they look for businesses that have the same priorities as they do.
As the Deloitte 2018 Millennial Survey points out, young employees believe that corporations should contribute more towards making a positive impact on society. Beyond creating innovative products, they see corporations improving people’s lives – which is exactly what employee lifelong learning does. And it’s the reason lifelong training is at the top of their list.
Stop considering learning as a training activity only for new hires. Encourage collaborative learning and expand your existing training program. An LMS for continuous training can help you work in this direction. Last but not least, create direct links between employees’ performance and learning goals.
Training your employees from time to time isn’t enough to elevate your business. In the age of digital disruption, continuous employee training and development is a top priority. So, stop considering learning as a training activity only for new hires, and start creating lifelong workforce opportunities today!
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