Technical, functional and behavioral capability building helps keep an organization relevant in an increasingly disruptive marketplace. Apart from increasing productivity, training is also an indispensable talent magnet; it helps enhance the employee value proposition to attract, engage and retain top talent. This is because training increases employee loyalty, leading to better engagement and is a great career progression tool.
Building a culture of learning is critical to engage in continuous learning. Bhanu Patnaik, Vice President - Talent Management at Happiest Minds notes that one of the ways the company ensures a learning culture is by finding the right balance between online and classroom courses. Further the company also employs internal employees to impart knowledge to create a learning culture
Time for Training: A Barrier to Continuous Learning
Despite the realization that training is beneficial, often organizations do not invest enough in training talent. One primary cause is the lack of time for training. According to a survey by Pluralsight, 69% organizations noted that the lack of time to set aside hours for training was the biggest challenge that prevented their teams from staying relevant.
A study on the root cause shows that this dilemma is two-fold, i.e., at the employer’s end and the employees end. Employers often look at training as a regular “to-do” initiative and employees who are burned with work. And putting “real work” on hold just to learn can seem pointless. Often, the benefits of learning are not tangibly visible to both these parties, and the training and development agenda withers off over time. Therefore, there is a need for an attitudinal change which must start with the top management.
A Pluralsight report indicates that workers who trained one hour per week saved 1.8 hours per week through productivity gains.
Tips to make time for learning
1) Create a learning culture: Leaders should showcase an ongoing commitment to the learning agenda. They must become passionate life-long learners themselves, and showcase this learning attitude throughout the organization. They must communicate learning commitments openly, articulating to managers and their teams about ‘what’s in it for them.' Showing employees how learning is beneficial to their career progression and prospects will help create a “pull” for learning. Only when employees truly believe that the management is serious about employees’ career goals and growth will this “pull” become real. Here are some simple tips on how to create a compelling learning culture:
- Define learning as a core company value and constantly communicate its importance.
- Introduce “learning goals” in the performance management process to kick-start the learning habit.
- Have a monthly learning series spearheaded by allocated “guest teachers.” This can be virtual or in-person and should cover a range of topics to make learning inclusive.
- Formalize an effective mentoring program.
- Introduce job-rotation: 70% of organizational learning is through job experiences. Allow employees to undergo horizontal movements through job rotation and help them leverage the power of on-the-job learning.
- Introduce 15 min crash courses for skills: Help managers and teams set aside 15 min per week to share key learnings. For example, in a mid-week meeting, you could start by sharing key learnings from the week.
2. Reward and recognize learning: Learning is a desired organizational behavior and to encourage desired behaviors, they must be continuously reinforced. For this, leaders must recognize and reward training efforts as well as learning efforts.
- Display learning completion certificates in a prominent location or on the company’s intranet. Positive reinforcement helps elicit the right behaviors.
- Display completion charts that highlight and recognize teams and individuals who have met their learning targets.
- Celebrate learning milestones within the team- hours completed, the number of courses done, a new skill applied well on a project etc. Managers should treat these “learning wins” at par with any successful business achievement. For example, take the leading team out for lunch.
3. Create learning schedules: While the above measures are aimed at creating a great environment for learning, it is critical to find the right balance between work and learning. It is the leader’s responsibility to ensure learning trickles down to become a ground-level reality. Here’s how to make time for training in the organizational schedule.
- Work with managers and the resourcing-scheduling team, and identify where you can carve out some additional time per week to put aside business commitments and take on a learning action-item. For example, “Can you reduce the weekly meeting from 40 min to 20 min, and dedicate 20 min to learning?”
- Embrace micro-learning. Quick to deliver and easy to assimilate and apply, bite-sized learning helps employees quickly learn skills even during their coffee breaks.
- Turn to technology: Learning should be seamless and available anytime-anywhere through multi-channel access. Turn to the latest technologies like online learning, mobile learning, social learning etc. to help employees integrate learning smoothly into their work schedules.
- Combine learning and engagement: Who does not like to play games? Gamification is a great tool to combine learning and engagement so that the employee learns, at the same time being reenergized.
Business Leaders must take the lead to align employees’ learning needs with the organization’s learning objectives. For this, they must design a robust L&D process. Train managers to identify their teams’ training needs well, so that employees invest time and effort in learning what is really needed. Measure and track progress, link learning outcomes to business success and showcase this success to employees and their managers. Seeing and showing the real benefit of learning is a sure way to inspire action.