As we get closer to the end of 2016, we realize HR professionals are starting to plan for the year ahead. This blog post is the second in a three-part series based around our 3 Ways Leaders Are Getting Ready To Win In 2017 blog post, diving into greater detail on how to turn our three strategies into reality. You can read the first installment in this series here: Connecting Performance Management to Day-to-Day Work.
There's just over a month left in 2016, and if you're like many people in HR, you're busy planning for 2017 while you tackle all the things you need to finish before the end of the year. By the way, please don't stress. It will all get done. It always does!
In this article, I'd like to talk about continuous learning and development, and encourage you to think about what's working in your organization now, what's not working, and what you might consider doing for 2017. So grab a coffee, and let's take a minute to assess your company's growth and development culture.
First thing's first, the importance of employee development isn't up for debate. More than 80 percent of executives say learning is an important or very important issue. And for good reason: Employees want to get better and learn new skills. So, your organization must commit to developing employees or risk losing top talent.
To do this, you need to have your leaders, managers and employees on board. It takes a full commitment from your entire team to build a culture of continuous learning and development. Here's how members of your team can do their part.
How leaders can lead by example
Leaders drive company culture in four ways:
- Their actions and behaviors
- What they pay attention to
- What gets rewarded and what gets punished
- The allocation and attention of resources
Company leaders need to do more than talk about how they value learning and innovation. In order to have a significant impact, leaders have to make learning and development a priority.
They can do this by putting learning and development directly into the organization's mission statement, vision and value propositions. Leaders should also ensure that forward-focused learning is not only part of their company's core competencies, but also part of individual competencies as well.
Other way leaders can promote learning and growth is to curate the best content that will help the business meet its objectives and support staff development. Curating content from sources such as YouTube videos, TED talks, scholarly articles, journal submissions, and from partners ensures the content available in your LMS has your company's stamp of approval for relevancy to job-specific competencies and to your business.
It's critical that learning - whether it's in a formal classroom setting or a webinar - is easily accessible. Company leaders should select a learning management system that is easy to use, ensure employees know how to use it, and make learning activities available from different devices, including mobile. After all, employees will be more encouraged to complete learning tasks when they can do it anywhere, any time.
Why managers need to make space for employees
It's a manager's job to discuss goals with employees, guide their learning and development plans, and provide encouragement and perspective when needed. Statistics show that by focusing on an employee's strengths, managers not only help their team members grow and develop, but also help boost engagement. And what it comes down to is time.
In order to promote a learning culture, managers need to:
- Create space for employees to spend time on learning and development
- Include learning discussions as part of regular 1:1 conversations
- Document employee progress towards goals
- Coach employees on how they can apply their learning to their day-to-day activities
- Solicit feedback from others to ensure employees are applying their skills
- Help employees link their new skills to business objectives
- Motivate employees to continuously develop new skills
It may seem like a long to-do list, but it essentially boils down to managers actively listening to employees, encouraging them to learn and grow, and supporting them by coaching and offering feedback. Managers also need to ensure that employees and the organization will benefit from the development that's happening with employees, something that can be done through collaborative goal setting and following-up on learning assignments to make sure employees are applying what they've learned.
The importance of employees to take ownership of development
The success of any learning and development program ultimately comes down to employee-driven learning opportunities. With advancements of technology and more flexible ways of accessing learning content, it's a golden opportunity for employees to take charge of their own career path and build on existing skills. In order to maximize learning and development, employees should:
Prepare a self-assessment: Identify their strengths and weaknesses, and develop a plan to address them.
Determine learning options: Take a close look at the courses and curated content offered on the company's learning solution. Find out if off-site courses or programs are available.
Discuss plans with direct manager: Employees should talk over their plans with managers to make sure they're learning the skills they need to achieve their career goals.
The benefit of employee-driven learning and development plans are that they make employees accountable for their success. It also gives employees some autonomy, which helps with engagement.
Looking ahead to 2017
Promoting a growth and development culture in the workplace isn't the sole responsibility of leaders, managers or employees: It's a team effort.
By mixing formal learning opportunities with a variety of resources and experiences, organizations can appeal to different styles of learning. Building development discussions into manager-employee check-ins, employees get the support and feedback they need to ensure they're acquiring relevant skills and are continuously updating their learning. And by putting employees in the director's chair of their own development, companies ensure their engagement and active participation.
So finish your coffee and start mobilizing your team for 2017!