What if 74 percent of your organization’s employees weren’t reaching their peak potential?
This isn’t just a hypothetical — it may very well be the case at your company, according to one survey.
While many factors contribute to this underachievement epidemic, learning and development opportunities — or the lack thereof — play a central role. Too often, on-the-job training is poorly aligned with the realities of a candidate’s role. As a result, only 12 percent of learners say they actually apply the skills they learn from training to their everyday tasks.
The fix this misalignment, organizations must cultivate cultures of continuous learning that encourage employees to seek out development opportunities that are relevant to their careers.
In addition to the effect that a culture of continuous learning can have on employee productivity and profit, increased access to development can also boost employee engagement and attract new talent to the company. After all, 66 percent of people feel learning is more important than monetary compensation
What can HR do to develop a learning culture within an organization and reap these rewards? Here are some key insights and action steps:
1. Formulate Learning and Development Pathways
The first few months of employment are critical to the success of a new hire. This is the time when they form their workplace habits, good or bad. With a well-organized training program, you can proactively guide new hires to form the best habits for success in your company.
Additionally, when your training program has a long-term structure, you can better communicate the developmental ladder to the hire and plan for pivot points in your own employee development strategy.
Make It Happen
Time and budget constraints can cause training programs to be rushed and ineffective. However, the entirety of a new hire’s training does not need to be crammed into a short window at the beginning of their tenure.
Instead of an in-depth week-long training course, outline a long-term path to mastery for each new hire. Focus the first few weeks on the basics of the position, and give employees ample time to learn and practice applying new information for better retention.
You can move on to more advanced skills a few weeks or months later, once the employee has the basics locked down. This way, new employees are eased into their roles while learning to value continuous instruction as part of the company culture. Given that 68 percent of workers say training and development is the most important workplace policy, this training process is likely to promote engagement as well.
2. Recognize and Reward Learning
Unless you appreciate and reward employees for their development, your workers will lack drive to pursue training. Those employees who are internally motivated will eventually begin to feel stifled, and they’ll move on to more appreciative employers.
While employees value learning and development, they also value recognition. Neglecting this fact could lead to significant turnover. In a 2015 study, 41 percent of employees said they would need to leave their current company for better career options, while 33 percent said their current company didn’t appreciate their skills and talents.
Make It Happen
One obvious approach to recognizing employees for skill development is monetary, but while many employees pursue education in hopes of obtaining additional pay, that’s not all your organization has to offer. Promotions and other opportunities for career advancement can be powerful methods of recognition in their own right.
Consider the ways an employee could use their newly acquired skills within the company. Could they be moved to another department? Could they take on a leadership role?
That said, if monetary reward is the only language your employees speak, offer a one-time bonus in addition to recommendations for future career trajectories or development opportunities.
3. Promote Knowledge-Sharing
The received wisdom says that 80 percent of corporate learning is informal. The concrete number is less important than the sentiment: Employees do most of their important learning and development outside official training courses.
While formal training is certainly valuable, it is guidance from colleagues that really drives on-the-job growth. Whether it’s sharing something as simple as a helpful keyboard shortcut or as nuanced as client management advice, knowledge transferred between employees is knowledge that sticks. It is in your company’s best interest to encourage such knowledge-sharing and offer plenty of opportunities for it to occur.
Make It Happen
First and foremost, lead by example. Provide opportunities for employees to safely test ideas and skills in collaboration with one another. Encourage risks and stay positive when the inevitable mistakes or missteps occur. When employees present ideas, listen honestly and explain why if you decide not to move forward with one. Kick-start these conversations by asking for opinions when the company faces challenges. This shows the team that leadership values their experience and encourages them to participate in solving difficult challenges.
Formalize knowledge-sharing by introducing mentorship and coaching programs. For a more casual approach, simply identify the most knowledgeable employees in specific areas and departments and encourage new hires to reach out if they need help.
At the end of the day, leadership is the catalyst in developing a learning culture. If management isn’t dedicated to professional learning and betterment, employees won’t be either.
A version of this article originally appeared on the ClearCompany blog.
Sara Pollock is head of the marketing department at ClearCompany.