Learning never stops, even well into adulthood! But in the workplace, many employees default into a mindset that results in stagnancy and boredom. Even if you assign learning modules or request that your employees learn new skills, very few of your workers will do so without the right encouragement.
Whether continuous learning is important for your industry or just a desirable attribute of your workplace culture, you can encourage continued learning for employees by considering the below tips.
What is Continued/Continuous Learning?
Continued or continuous learning is the practice of always pursuing new educational insights and skill certifications. In the workplace, continuous learning is usually represented by online learning modules. For instance, an employee may take a half hour out of their normal workday to complete a training module to either reinforce existing skills or learn something new.
Continuous learning is crucial for a variety of reasons:
- It allows organizations to teach their employees about new skills or products individually. In this way, a business can keep its doors open and maintain regular operations while only having to account for small chunks of time where one person is away from their normal duties
- It allows employees to learn new skills, which can serve them in the workplace and allow them to use new products or systems
- It prepares employees to take on new responsibilities. For example, an employee may take a few continued learning modules using a digital platform before they are promoted to a supervisor in charge of other coworkers
“Depending on your industry and the responsibilities of your workers,” says Ryan Delk, CEO of Primer, “continuous learning could be legally mandated, or it could be necessary to ensure your organization stays at the front line of its industry. No one wants to be overtaken by a competitor with a better labor force.”
At its core, continuous learning is crucial for any business in any industry. But the best continued learning results occur once employees pursue more education and training voluntarily, rather than only completing continued learning programs when mandated.
If you want to encourage continued learning for your employees, good news: there are many ways you can do so.
Offer Self-Directed Learning Tools
For starters, you can offer self-directed learning tools to your employees. Self-directed learning tools, like self-service modules or training games, are better than learning tools that require constant supervision or access by a manager.
Self-directed learning tools also allow employees to educate themselves in their own time frames. “For example, you can require every employee to complete a continued education module by the end of the week. So long as your employees can access the module whenever they like, some may choose to do this at work, while others may choose to complete their learning at home,” says Bryan Jones, CEO of Truckbase.
Self-directed learning tools put the power of education in the hands of your employees. The more freedom and flexibility you offer, the more likely it is your employees will pursue continued learning of their own volition.
Build a Library of Educational Resources
Next, try to build and maintain a robust library of excellent educational resources. Such a library should be accessible both in the workplace and at home, like through your business website’s blog or another information portal. “The bigger a library you build,” says Nabiha Akhtar, CEO and Founder of Lil Deenies, “the more educational information you put at the fingertips of your most productive and initiative driven employees.”
A library of educational resources gives your employees more tools they can use to pursue continued learning at their own paces. “It’s also invaluable for rockstar employees who may wish to learn more about your organization, tools, and practices in order to prepare for management training or future promotions,” says Brittany Dolin, Co-Founder of Pocketbook Agency.
As a side benefit, having a library of educational resources shows that your brand is committed to providing continuous learning opportunities for each of its employees. This perception is just as important as any mandates for training modules.
Reward Employees for Completing Training
Gabriel de la Serna, CEO and Founder of Onpost says, “There’s nothing wrong with a good, old-fashioned incentive for completing training modules or lessons!” Sometimes, it’s best to be direct and provide straight incentives for your employees so they get necessary training done quickly without dragging their feet.
For instance, every employee who completes a continuing education credit at your business portal or platform might qualify for free pizza, a discount on store merchandise, or something else entirely.
Rewarding employees for completing training is the best way to get everyone on board if you have a state-mandated or other legally required learning module. “Say that all your managers need to have CPR certification in order to properly serve the public and to prevent your business from being in legal hot water,” says Bradley Hall, CEO of SONU Sleep. “Offering an incentive like a pizza party is a great way to make sure that everyone shows up to the training on time and you don’t have any skippers.”
Allow Employees to Train Together
Community is an important part of any workplace, but especially when it comes to training and learning. To that end, you should allow your employees to complete training resources and modules together when possible.
This isn’t always possible, of course. Omid Semino, CEO and Founder of Diamond Mansion says, “For instance, maybe you need your employees to complete an educational module, but still need someone to run the sales floor in the meantime. But even in these cases, allowing employees to complete training in pairs, trios, or other small groups may do wonders for your training completion rate.”
Continued learning is best enjoyed when you can bounce ideas off your coworkers and when everyone can share experiences. Allowing your employees to complete continued learning together could be the missing link in your educational efforts.
Foster a Culture of Learning
By the same token, it’s well worth it to foster a culture of learning at your workplace. A culture of learning is reflected in how you talk about continued learning (i.e., don’t disparage continued education credits or classes – instead, support those who volunteer for them) and in what you provide to your employees.
“If continued learning is important for your business, you need to make sure your employees see it as a positive thing,” says Nick Wallace, Co-Founder, President and Chief Farm Officer at 99 Counties. Make it easy for people to pursue continued learning by giving them flexibility in their daily schedules or by offering incentives.
Implement Learning Follow-Ups
Many employees forgo continued learning or only pursue further education when mandated because there aren’t any follow-ups on their progress. This contributes to a negative company culture as well.
Instead, you should implement learning follow-ups whenever an employee at your organization completes an educational unit or game. Ask the employee what they thought, if they have any feedback, and make sure that they know the material they ought to have absorbed.
Not only does this make sure that your continued learning materials are worthwhile and educational. It also shows your employee that you care about their professional development and progress. Over time, this will contribute to a more positive workplace culture regarding continued learning.
Most employees can benefit from having a certification or credential or two on their resumes. With that in mind, you can incentivize the pursuit of certifications or credentials by offering rewards, making it easy for your employees to pursue certifications during working hours, and by putting up posters or papers highlighting the benefits that such certifications bring.
John Sarson, CEO of American Crypto Academy says, “For example, if you want a more educated workforce in software development, you might put up an informational and entertaining poster breaking down the benefits of learning another coding language. At the bottom, you can include links to helpful continued education resources or learning modules on your business website.”
Set Up a Peer-to-Peer Mentoring Initiative
Lastly, consider launching and maintaining a peer-to-peer mentoring initiative. As noted above, most people learn better and are more incentivized to pursue continued learning if they can do so with their peers.
But your employees are also the best tutors for each other. “A peer-to-peer mentoring initiative allows you to save resources and incentivizes relationship building within the workplace,” says Michael Fischer, Founder of Elite HRT.
For instance, you might have your current shift supervisors or middle managers be responsible for training all of the new hires you bring into your organization. Through a peer-to-peer mentoring initiative, those shift supervisors get bonuses on their paychecks for every trainee they teach who stays for three months (or something similar).
The details are irrelevant. The point is to encourage continued learning by allowing your employees to make professional connections with each other.
All in all, continuous learning is an important part of a healthy workplace culture and an important tool you can use to improve the performance of your employees. Set the right goals, give your employees great tools, and foster a strong culture of continued learning, and you’ll see improvements in how many training modules your employees complete each week in no time!