Several generations of workers each contribute different skills and knowledge. Older workers can still recall the jumps in technical expectations as standard office norms transitioned first into internet proficiency, then mobile competence and now a whole new set of remote challenges. So, what’s happening now?
Learning and development, known as L&D in management jargon, comprises both formal and informal education and activities designed to foster workers’ capabilities. Among the many building blocks firms provide are:
- Skills development.
- Training courses.
- Leadership preparation.
- Performance management.
- Change management.
- Personal development.
Informal learning can be acquired from multiple sources. These may range from having a simple chat over lunch to share knowledge and insights about work-related subjects to reading informative articles in newspapers or magazines.
While much of that exploration relies on an employee’s own initiative, an employer can help create opportunities by providing collaborative workspaces and reading materials, lunch-and-learn sessions (be sure to sponsor the food!), or interactive webinars.
More formal education involves stated objectives and specific skills to be achieved during the training period, followed by an evaluation. Training is distinguished from more general professional development, which encompasses the future of the company and the growth of the employee.
An L&D initiative will:
- Analyze skill gaps.
- Design responsive training programs with courses, mentorships and online learning.
- Design programs to prepare employees for possible promotions.
- Personalize education with mobile learning and other technology.
- Consult with employees about their ongoing needs for L&D.
- Forge partnerships with other firms and industry experts.
- Arrange for employees to shadow a mentor or pair up for learning.
- Monitor programs.
- Measure impact.
The ultimate goal is to establish a culture of continuous learning that lets staff grow together.
Employees will thank you
When L&D programs are successful, workers appreciate how their career profiles have been enhanced by knowledge and formal certifications. They are pleased to increase their prospects for both internal promotion and other jobs. In fact, rather than viewing L&D as a distinctive benefit, employees have grown to regard it as a routine expectation.
From the employer’s viewpoint, the benefits of a more highly trained and educated workforce are palpable:
- Better employee retention.
- More interest from job candidates.
- Improved performance.
- Better morale.
- Higher job satisfaction.
- Increased team productivity.
- Uniform basic knowledge across teams.
- Better relationships and interactions with customers.
L&D can set in motion a virtuous cycle. As job performance improves, an entire team’s output can reach a higher level. Team members collaborate and share responsibilities to complete their tasks. As the rising tide lifts all boats, the effects of L&D can be far-reaching.
Paradoxically, by empowering workers in their current roles, companies may actually discourage them from job hopping. To make it all succeed, though, it is imperative that workers buy into and embrace L&D opportunities.
Education levels the playing field
In smaller operations with tighter budget constraints, L&D can deliver even more bang for the buck. Where a human resources department does not exist, responsibility for L&D may fall to the chief operating officer or the operations manager.
Yet there are advantages to being compelled to compete against larger, better-funded firms with full HR teams and specialist learning officers. Small, nimble companies make a virtue of necessity by exposing their employees to tasks that may lie slightly outside their comfort zones.
Workers must pick up skills quickly, and most take satisfaction in rising to the occasion. Learning by doing may be a prime motivator for working in a smaller setting. Employees enjoy the chance for colleagues’ skills to rub off in a natural and continuous process.