Why do some businesses do so much better than others? The answer in many cases is that successful businesses encourage their employees to spend time learning and developing their skills on a regular basis. Over 70% of high performing businesses provide training that clearly meets the needs of the business, according to a Brandon Hall Group research study. Companies do best when they can make a link between what employees are learning and what the business is trying to achieve.
‘High-impact learning organisations’, who matched training clearly to business needs, saw profit growth three times greater than their competitors over four years, according to Bersin by Deloitte. The reason? If you can keep your employee skills up to date, you can perform better than your competitors.
Yet in late 2016 most businesses still felt they were not managing to provide learning that actually helped the business. Often this is because leaders don't have a clear understanding of the connection between their learning strategy and how it supports the direction of the business.
Learning that meets business needs
Here are five tips to help you create a culture of continuous learning that will help you develop your people and grow your business:
- Develop great leaders who can drive learning that works. Managers and employees who have regular conversations about how they are doing in their jobs are more likely to stick to the plan when it comes to meeting business goals. Encourage managers to check in frequently with team members about progress toward short-term and long-term goals. It is worth having resources that can help with these conversations. This might include giving managers some examples of open-ended questions that they could ask such as, “What have you applied so far from your learning?” or “Is there anything I can do to help you?”
- Make sure ‘learning paths’ lead to business success. If learning has a clear link to what the company is trying to achieve, then it will work better for everyone – learners, managers and the business. Next, think about how best to support learning throughout your business. One tactic might be to allow employees the opportunity to access different kinds of learning content on business systems such as collaboration or HR portals from anywhere and at any time.
- Make time for development. We know people need to keep learning and growing if a business is going to prosper. We also know that learners need time to work on their personal training plan. For some business owners, this may require a shift in mindset and a need to communicate that it’s okay for people to spend time learning at work. Set an expectation that employees will prepare for one-on-one meetings to talk about how they are progressing against their development plan.
- Aim for ‘juicy’ employee development. If you want passionate employees who really understand what the business is trying to do and want to be part of it, consider how to add ‘juice’ to their training. This is the ingredient that makes the training appetising and makes learners want come back for more. It happens when training is relevant to business and personal goals, and when employees actually get the opportunity to apply what they are learning. Keep the door open for employees to discover new ways of putting their training into action such as taking on stretch assignments or participating in working groups in other areas of the business. Simple tactics like these will benefit and motivate employees and enable them to learn from others, as well.
- Put in place a structure to document and reward each person's progress towards their goals. Make goals meaningful and easy to measure. Are people finding it easier to do their job after learning something? Are they working more efficiently than before? How can they prove that and show they are improving? If they are doing well, let them know. Each individual should clearly understand how any training and development activity helps make the business successful. In many cases, improving communications across the company will help a lot with these aims.
Developing your people is good business
For business owners concentrating on growing a business, every day is an opportunity to take a step forward. It is important that employees share the same mindset. Before this can happen, some business owners may need to take a step back and spend time looking at how they can adapt a culture of continuous growth and development throughout their business.
When the connection between training and business objectives is transparent, employees will be able to bring their best effort to work. And a company that develops a culture of continuous learning is a company that is earning. Employees will not only be up-to-date with the latest information and ideas, they will be empowered to create and innovate – while the business will see growth on the bottom line.