How Do Learning Programs Lead to Stable Business Growth?
For some companies determined to rise up in the ranks, learning and development programs have been given a raincheck, written off as more or less an unnecessary luxury. They can be perceived as too time-consuming, expensive or hard to execute for growth-focused organizations to spend much time on them. Certain innovative organizations, like Google, however, would beg to differ -- these companies do not view learning programs as an expense, but as a necessary and valuable investment. Here’s a brief look at why and how companies can use learning and development programs to drive broader business success.
Learning’s compound ROI
Employee training programs build loyalty. When a company spends money on helping its employees learn, it is essentially showing that it cares about their personal and professional development. If employees feel that the company is investing in them, that they are appreciated and encouraged to grow and that they can learn skills that will lead to promotions, retention is likely to increase.
Development also attracts talent. Potential new hires are drawn to companies where they will have the opportunity to learn: In a study of millennial workers by consulting firm EY, training and development was cited as the number one benefit companies could offer prospective employees. This means lower recruiting costs and more talented employees, both of which have a positive impact on a firm’s bottom line.
Effective learning programs can optimize your labor force. If an employee is taught a new skill, his or her performance and productivity can improve. More skilled employees can work more efficiently. Training employees in a skill or a tool could obviate the need to hire a dedicated specialist, cutting costs. A team or organization whose members have a broad skillset is better-positioned to stay lean and effective.
How to implement a culture of learning
- To get the most out of employee learning and development programs, companies must first evaluate the condition of the business and determine what needs improvement.
- Managers should also make it clear to employees that they are expected to take the necessary steps to keep up with their fields. This, however, cannot be done without support from employers. The company should accommodate its employees by providing the necessary resources.
- Employees should be sent to learning programs with a focused idea of what they expect to gain from the training. They should only attend relevant courses.
- Don’t delay learning. Whether the business is doing well or badly, employees should be consistently learning. Particularly during periods of change or difficulty, businesses can be tempted to put off programs. It's exactly these periods when companies can benefit most from employees increasing their knowledge.
- Make sure employees have time for learning -- even busy employees should feel encouraged to make time for learning.
We have a Lot to Learn from Google Employees
In 2013, 55% of all training programs at Google were taught by Google employees. Peer-led programs encourage employees to work together and interact, which has helped create a collaborative learning environment inside and outside of the classroom. Learning has become just another element of employees’ workflows, not something that the HR department has to force them to do. Training is unlikely to be seen as a chore when the teachers are enthusiastic about teaching their coworkers a skill they’re passionate about. "It’s a remarkable thing to put someone in teaching mode. In a way, you get to see the best of them," says Karen May, Google’s head of people operations.
Who said learning has to be expensive?
Learning is necessary for growing companies now more than ever. Employees who have been in the workforce for many years are not the only ones demanding an efficient learning program. In fact, according to research by PwC, millennials chose learning opportunities as the most important benefit companies could offer potential recruits (beating cash bonuses, flexible working hours or free healthcare) So how can businesses launch inexpensive, lightweight, interactive training programs? Companies such as GE, Motorola, and Phillips may have found an answer. These tech companies are using training portals and virtual learning experiences to train two to three times more employees.
Other companies have followed suit and are using technology to their advantage. A 2014 survey of some of the most advanced companies showed that mobile devices were used for approximately 18% of all training. Another survey revealed that in 2015, 57% of UK organizations believed that mobile learning will have the greatest impact in learning and development in the next five years.
Whether the training classes are being led by excited employees, high-tech virtual games, or a teacher from the HR department, any style of learning is better than no learning. As long as there is a well-established culture of learning and employee retention, productivity will increase, and your business will thrive.