Learning on the job has never been more important. 87% of companies worldwide either report having a skills gap currently, or expect to have one in the next few years. A key method of overcoming this is to develop your employees’ skills to fill these gaps.
Learning at Work Week in the UK is an annual event that encourages such learning cultures in the workplace and shines the spotlight on the benefits of continual development. This year’s events are exciting for many as 67% of HR managers report an increased learning & development (L&D) budget for 2022.
But how can business and HR leaders ensure that they are investing their budget in the right activities? UNLEASH spoke to six business leaders to share the importance of L&D strategies and how to implement them successfully.
Help them learn so they return
Providing L&D opportunities for employees is so important as it keeps them engaged in their work and motivated for the future.
“Many organizations have come to realize that almost 80% of employees will stay longer if they can see a career path within the company,” explains Ian Rawlings, RVP EMEA at SumTotal. “Continued learning is vital to long-term employee retention, which is a reason why it is imperative that employers improve onboarding and retention strategies. Organizations don’t have the luxury of losing top talent, especially with the challenge of the current skills shortages.
“Modern workers want opportunities to grow and develop as individuals and professionals. They’ll seek out employers who help them do so.”
Terry Storrar, managing director at Leaseweb UK, agrees that “in order to hire and retain the best and brightest, businesses need to be prepared to offer continued growth and development for all their employees – not just new starters.
Time and again a lack of career development is cited as one of the biggest contributors for employees leaving. And yet, 15Five’s 2021 survey found that most employers (55.5%), do not offer a clear path for advancement.”
Learning how to learn
Providing L&D opportunities may seem like an easy task, but in reality, there are so many ways that business leaders can help develop their employees that it can become overwhelming. Sadie Wilde, leadership and talent development partner at cloud services company Node4, stresses how simply making time for the team to be together – which can be rare in the new world of hybrid work – can go a long way:
“Making the most of being together when in the office is also essential for learning and development. Encouraging teams to meet together – be it a formal brainstorm or an informal coffee morning – cultivates an environment that enables everyone to bring a different idea to the table.
“A strong coaching and mentoring culture should be encouraged, whereby colleagues are encouraged to learn from and support each other in their development. After all, there is no one better to learn from than someone who has already walked that path.”
Alternatively, business leaders can implement more formal training sessions to help their employees learn and grow. “Training is a vital part of the fight to fill the skills gap,” explains Jen Locklear, chief people officer at tech provider ConnectWise.
“In sectors such as cybersecurity, where there is a real shortage of skilled talent in the market, upskilling the employees they already have is a good option, and there are plenty of resources available that provide in-person or online training solutions.
These options are ideal because they can be completed anywhere and any time, allowing individuals to complete them at their own pace. This allows for a balance between personal development and business priorities.”
Hugh Scantlebury, CEO and founder at Aqilla, also advocates for dedicating time out of the workday for training, advising that organizations invest in cloud-based accounting platforms that “automate some of the admin burdens, freeing up time for workers to learn and develop other critical skills.
“Business leaders should optimize this time through organizing training sessions – whether investing in external resources or scheduling time for team brainstorms – so that employees can focus on their development.”
Whilst a lot of the focus this Learning at Work Week has been on developing the skills of existing employees, Gillian Mahon, chief people and places officer at Totalmobile, explains the value in hiring apprenticeships, with no experience or targeted education, and training them on the job:
“While traditionally many jobs may have expected you to learn the skills and knowledge required during your education, today there are more pathways open to those willing to learn and work hard at the same time. Apprenticeships are an excellent way to encourage more people of all ages and backgrounds into different industries.
“Bringing new members of the team together into the workplace to learn alongside each other is vital to promote the sharing of ideas, which ultimately leads to faster and better development. Apprentices can understand the job from the inside out, and build a greater foundation from which the rest of their careers can be based on.”
Ultimately, regardless of how organizations decide to offer development opportunities, the most important factor is that employees are provided with the resources and tools to learn and progress in their careers.
As Leaseweb’s Storrar concludes: “Successful organizations never stand still – they are constantly evolving, adapting, and most importantly learning. This Learning at Work Week, I want to encourage all businesses to consider new ways to provide diverse learning and development opportunities to invest in the next generation of hard-working individuals!”