Recently, we’ve seen upskilling and retraining programs emerge in workforces across the globe. Companies are taking the time to help their employees learn new skills for new positions as new technology emerges. This is great, don’t get me wrong, but I think we need to focus more on continuous learning for all employees. This definitely would work in conjunction with upskilling programs, but as leaders who are trying to drive transformation, the onus is with us to encourage learning across the organization.
When was the last time you went to a leadership development class? Or the last time you did any classes to help learn new skills? If you aren’t doing it, then how can you expect your employees to do? If we don’t encourage our employees to continue to learn, we can’t expect them to continue to handle the weight of the transformation itself. How can we prepare? By encouraging continuous learning for all employees, no matter their position or rank. Let’s take a look at why this is so important.
Make Learning a Necessity, Not an Extra
Most employees see on-the-job education as an extra, something they must do on top of the rest of their work. I know I’ve definitely been to seminars or lectures where I’m just checking the box for some requirement. And I’ll be honest, in those scenarios I rarely paid attention and I rarely learned anything. This is why we need to shift the mindset. Encourage continuous learning by framing it as an opportunity for growth, not a requirement. Shift to this mindset and allow your employees to thrive in a culture focused on education instead. It will take more than encouraging your team to take an online course. In fact, it will take you changing the atmosphere of your organization to focus on education as a priority.
As a manager or business owner, how can you make that happen? After all, your employees DO have a lot on their plate already. Put simply, it starts with you.
Learning Isn’t About the Promotion it’s About Value
I never ever want to see or hear someone say they are only at a professional development class because their manager said it would help them get a promotion. What kind of message does that send to your team? You should give promotions based on practical qualifications not arbitrary requirements.
I’m not a fan of making any education mandatory, but if you do decide to make something a requirement, make sure your team members see you talk positively about what you’ve learned. Encourage a discussion or dialogue to help them understand that what they’ve just learned is important to the business. Explain the value of the education and show that you also understand the value.
Helping employees see the value in their education is key. Whenever you’re goal setting as a team, take the time to pick a few skills that employees could develop to help achieve goals. Share your thoughts with your team about the talents you’re waiting to develop. Then constantly encourage employees to develop those skills and talents.
Feedback and Praise
Employees that take the time to learn or hone their skills should be recognized and praised in some way. Some employees might come away from a class inspired to take action—let them. As you work to foster a culture of continuing education and growth, make sure you celebrate each initiative they try, even if they fail. These moments are learning opportunities that are invaluable for those involved and the company as a whole.
Make it a priority, when projects fail, to talk about the why. Help your team to learn something, no matter the outcome, that they can use for the next thing they take on.
Consider the Workload of Your Team
Part of placing emphasis on education is allowing your team to involve themselves in it without struggling. An already full plate topped with mandatory classes is a recipe for disaster. Instead, encourage employees to take classes or go to seminars when it’s convenient for them. If you know your employees are busy after work hours, offer lunch and learn sessions or give them time during the work day to take a webinar or online class. Create a continuous learning program that best suits your workforce.
When you pile things on and make it all mandatory, you’re only going to make your employees more stressed and more likely to burnout faster. That will negatively affect your entire team.
Allow New Experiences
We all know that when we suffer from a lack of inspiration, simply changing our surroundings can help. This is also true for our employees. Allow your team to enjoy new experiences such as new projects and location changes to jog their creativity. Give your team members special assignments that require more from them, using what they’ve learned throughout their retraining.
Allowing new experiences gives your team the benefit of new feedback and the ability to try new things. Change is frightening, especially for someone who feels comfortable in their current position. However, during the digital transformation, comfort will need to take a back seat to innovation. You must prepare your workforce by being an example and making education a part of the job, not just something to further ignore.
The Benefit of Continuous Learning
Focusing on people is one of the key pillars of digital transformation. Creating a culture of continuous learning is a great way to show your employees that you want them to succeed and grow. If you’re a leader who wants your team to grow, demonstrate that you’re committed to growth yourself. By doing a little bit of work, and making a few small changes, your company will see results.
The original version of this article was first published on Forbes.