Learning is a lifelong endeavor. It does not stop when a person leaves university and enters the workforce. There is so much value in continuous learning, especially for those who want career advancement.
The Importance of Learning
In an increasingly globalized and ever-changing world, employees have to remain competitive. They have to regularly improve and expand their knowledge and skillset to continue making valuable contributions to the organization in which they belong.
Previous research revealed that adults who pursued continuing education increased both income and productivity. Nearly all the employers who participated in the study (96 percent) said that continuing education improved job performance. Meanwhile, most of them (87 percent) said that continuing education has a direct link with a higher pay scale. Moreover, 78 percent of employers admitted that continuing education is a factor they consider for promotion.
Companies also benefit when employees upskill, reskill, and/or learn a new skill. The competence of employees is crucial to the survival and growth of the organization. When skills remain stagnant, so does the company. There will be no new ideas or novel solutions to challenges.
The Annual Global CEO Survey from PwC in 2019 revealed that, according to chief executives, the skills gap is the third most significant threat to a company. Another survey on LinkedIn revealed that 92 percent of company executives agree that there is a skills gap in the American workforce.
Most executives, however, agree that building employee capabilities would bridge the skills gap.
Aligning Employee Learning with Corporate Strategy
The biggest companies around the world are investing in employee learning and training. In the United States, corporations spent an estimated total of US$70.6 billion between 2015 and 2016 to enhance employee performance.
In Singapore, which regularly produces a highly skilled workforce, adults are encouraged to upskill to remain competitive in their respective fields. The work-learn program enables workers to pursue certified diploma courses without leaving their full-time employment. They earn money and gain the relevant skills they need to climb up the corporate ladder.
The challenge, however, is to align learning with corporate needs and strategy. If an organization is to invest in the upskilling of employees, it should add value or aid in reaching company goals.
The best place to start is by looking at performance metrics. Sales is an area that most companies want to improve. If sales are down or stagnant, management needs to investigate where the deficiency is coming from. For example, if the company’s representatives have been making frequent check-ins with the clients, then perhaps the sales tactic is not working, or there is an existing competence issue.
The Right Learning Environment
The right learning environment enables employees to access the resources that they need when they need them. Often, training manuals and courses are long. They contain information that the employee already knows or has no use for, at least right now.
Reading an entire manual or completing hours of video is a waste of time. Microlearning divides content into easily digestible pieces. It works because it allows employees to receive specific training based on their weaknesses or personal goals. It also does not pressure employees to absorb as much information as they can during a short period.
Moreover, it takes into consideration different learning styles. People absorb information in different ways. Some prefer to read the content. Others retain information better when they watch or listen. Many are kinaesthetic learners who understand instruction when they put it into practice.
These should be built into the learning environment. Providing content for multiple learning styles ensures that the company achieves its initial objective when it invests in employee upskilling.
Resources must regularly be updated, too. Outdated learning resources will pull down any progress that the employee and the organization made. In fact, it might be contributing to the skills gap in the workforce.
It should regularly be reviewed thoroughly and by experts. The company should also ask for feedback from employees to see if their needs and goals are being addressed. If not, then it should be revised or replaced.
Most importantly, the success of learning should be measured in whether it has added value to the organization’s strategy, not by how much time an employee spent on training. Increased ROI (return of investment) is a common metric of success. If the company’s goal is to increase sales of a team, did undergo training achieve that? Or are they still falling behind?
Employees gain an advantage by learning new skills while they work. Companies also reap the benefits when employees continue improving. Companies, therefore, should invest in employee upskilling.