There was a time in history when employees were at the mercy of their employer in terms of fringe benefits. A great package in the early 20th century might include a steady paycheck and the day off on Christmas — unless you were employed by a gentleman with the name Ebenezer. Things have certainly changed; so much so that it is now employers who must fight to offer the greatest benefit packages in order to attain (and retain) the best and brightest employees. One of the most popular benefits for employees is an opportunity to learn.
Whether through tuition reimbursement programs, paid professional certifications or free continuing education credits, fostering employees who have a deep love of learning is beneficial to all those involved. With this in mind, it’s important for managers to create learning opportunities within the office. Most programs focus on opportunities outside regular business hours; however, if you’re a people manager, there are things you can do today to help cultivate great learning environments without the need for employees to seek such opportunities during their free time.
Here are four ideas to foster a love of learning:
Call It Out.
As you look to initiate any learning program, it will be important to make sure those who report to you are aware of the level of importance you place on learning. You may be thinking, “Shouldn’t my team already know this is important to me?” The truth is, most employees don’t expect or assume that an organization or their managers value learning above learning the in and outs of their particular roles and focusing on what they brought with them through the doors.
Expert guests may range from senior members of other teams with which you work, to professional educators. Picture these events as in-house conferences or seminars. If there is a particular certification that would help the members of your team perform more effectively, having an outside instructor come to you each week and working through the course as a team is a great way to build camaraderie, as well as ensure your employees have the specific qualifications you need to ensure long-term organizational success. For example, if you’re managing a group of project managers, there could be an opportunity to work as a team toward earning a Project Management Professional (PMP) certificate.
Set up a Laboratory.
Whether you want to call it a workshop, a lunch and learn — or another term people may be buzzing at the moment, having proctored learning sessions is a solid method to employ to edify your teams. The frequency of these sessions can be flexible, though in most office settings, monthly or bi-monthly works well.
Involve your employees! Don’t just pick a topic and hope for the best; there should be a dialogue around what skills and knowledge your people are interested in improving. And remember, not everyone on the team will be, or needs to be, in attendance at every session. One month you may focus on communication, another on organization skills or time management, and so on.
Carve out Time.
Providing the time to foster a love of learning doesn’t have to be a detriment to the bottom line and productivity. A mere 30-minute block for employees to focus on learning initiatives adds up to over 20 hours of annual, in-office learning. Think about it: Perhaps it’s the last 30 minutes of every Tuesday, or the first half hour on Fridays. By making it a point to provide specific time solely for the purpose of education, most teams can accomplish a significant amount of self-betterment.
Learning is an important piece of individual growth and development. This goes above the standard on-the-job training; that’s still essential, but it focuses only on the skills needed to complete the tasks employees were hired to perform today, rather than helping them grow within the organization and become the leaders of tomorrow. There is no right or wrong methods. Anything you can do as a manager to help your employees grow will both benefit the organization, as well as help demonstrate your people skills. These suggestions are a great start, but there should be no limit on learning, as there is no finish line. As Leonardo da Vinci said, “Learning never exhausts the mind.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: As the editor and content manager at ResumeEdge, Michelle Kruse has helped countless job seekers find success. With more than 10 years of experience recruiting for companies like Novartis and IBM, she has firsthand experience of what recruiters are looking for, and she shares that insight with those who need it most. She writes regularly to provide advice on resume writing and interviewing not only because it’s her job, but because it’s her passion.