Albert Einstein famously said, “Once you stop learning, you start dying.” Humans are naturally curious and inquisitive; when we learn, we grow. So what happens when you feel like you are in a position where you have nothing left to learn and nowhere to grow? At that point you’re really just a body inside the organization until you can find something better. In fact, a recent study found that the number one reason people leave their jobs is lack of career path.
One of the key things in a career path is the phrase “given resources to do so.” This means that the organization actually gives employees whatever resources they need to grow and advance. This could be mentoring programs, cash to take courses online, internal training sessions, guest speakers, or a whole range of other things. Employees need to feel like when they want to grow, they can. There are two main components of this principle: learning and development and advancement.
Learning and Development
Although this can encompass a lot of things, at its heart, learning and development is designed to make sure that employees never stop learning and adapting to the changing world. New skills, strategies, processes, attitudes, and behaviors are all part of learning and development. A great example can be found in HR. Traditional HR is going through an amazing transformation today. Instead of simply focusing on hiring, firing, and rules, HR is now having to explore experience, new technologies, engagement, organizational design, and much more. Ideally, an organization would offer learning and development programs to help HR professionals adapt to these changes. The same is true for any other employees in any function. Things change, and we need to be able to adapt. Learning and development also keeps us from getting bored, opens up new challenges and opportunities, helps us feel more successful, and adds more color to our professional and personal lives.
When conducting its internal employee survey, business software company Qlik found that team members were eager for additional development opportunities. As part of its investment in learning and development, Qlik launched the 24-For-U program to encourage nontraditional learning and development experiences for all Qlik employees. This program provides an additional day off per year for education—whether it benefits personally or professionally—including training programs with a subject matter expert, shadowing someone for the day, and so on. Everyone is encouraged to keep 24-For-U in mind when creating his or her annual individual development plans. From Qlik’s perspective, if a person is learning and growing, he or she is going to be happier and more engaged.
Qlik employees have used this initiative in some pretty creative and engaging ways and done everything from participating in an immersion program in Argentina to building a computer lab in an orphanage to taking online finance classes. Qlik is a great example of an organization that takes a more unconventional approach toward learning and development. Its 24-For-U initiative helps develop team members in an engaging way that makes people actually want to take advantage of the effort.
Perhaps no other organization in the world takes learning as seriously as professional services company Accenture. Last year alone Accenture spent upwards of $841 million dollars on learning, which is one of the world’s largest budgets devoted to this category. It is currently on the path to create over 100 digital employee classrooms at its various locations around the world. Instead of taking learners to great learning, Accenture focuses on taking great learning to its learners. This means employees can be anywhere in the world and get access to a top-notch learning, including face-to-face instruction, virtual classrooms, and top online content.
Advancement is not the same thing as learning and development, although organizations often place them in the same bucket. Advancement specifically refers to the forward motion in an individual’s career, typically signified with a promotion and a pay raise. If you start as an associate and then get promoted to manager, you have experienced advancement. According to a study done by EY, one of the top reasons people quit their jobs is a lack of advancement opportunities. This should come as no surprise, because forward motion signifies progress.
Employees have their own perspective on what advancement actually means. Some employees who say they want advancement really want to learn new things, gain more responsibility, and expand their skillset. Sometimes they don’t even care about money or a promotion. Other times employees who say they want advancement are specifically talking about a pay raise and a promotion. This is why it’s crucial to have conversations with employees about what they are actually looking for. You may uncover that one of the reasons why employees want more senior job titles is so their resumes look good for future employers. These employees may care less about their current title, but they want others to know that they have been growing and advancing. Understanding the motives behind why employees are asking for or wanting certain things will make it much easier for you to give it to them. This is one of the reasons why T-Mobile has focused so much on creating a culture of promoting within and has an unheard of internal promotion rate of 90%.
Learning and advancement provides career progression and personal growth opportunities for employees and shows that an organization is invested in its people and understand its employees’ motives. In order to improve these areas at your company, separate the discussions about learning and development from advancement. Determine the true motives of your employees, and then create ways to help them reach their development and advancement goals.
My new book, The Employee Experience Advantage (Wiley) analyzes over 250 global organizations to understand how to create a place where people genuinely want to show up to work. Get my free training series to create powerful Employee Experiences, future proof your career and life, or become a member of the new Facebook Community The Future If… and join the discussion.
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