The words “continuing education” may make some employees roll their eyes or wonder how they’re going to squeeze in the time to meet requirements. But there are good reasons for the practice of learning beyond traditional education – benefits for the business and the employee.
Businesses profit by having employees who are up to date on current practices in the industry and who bring innovative ideas into the workplace. Employees benefit by gaining education and experience that can enable them to market themselves better in the workplace which could lead to higher salaries or promotions.
Some professions have mandatory continuing education requirements to maintain licenses or certifications (the health care industry for example). Most others don’t have these types of requirements but that doesn’t mean continuing education isn’t essential. This article highlights ways you can engage your employees and keep them moving in the right direction through meaningful continuing education opportunities.
Make it Personal
One of the best ways to get employees motivated about learning is to make it personal. Relate their continuing education to their career path. Ask them where they see themselves in 1, 5 or 10 years and tailor their education to help them achieve their goals. Perhaps they need a certification before they can move up in management or maybe they could benefit from a public speaking course that would enable them to deliver better presentations.
Mapping a plan like this can help them see the long-term effects their continuing education can have. Another way to make it personal is to have employees conduct self-evaluations. This task can help them examine their performance as well as set career goals. This can also help them understand that continuing their education allows them to market themselves better for promotion, better pay, management roles and more.
You can also allow employee input on continuing education options. Maybe there’s a conference that interests them or you can offer tuition reimbursement for them to take a class at a local college or university. Giving employees the option to dictate how they grow in the workplace can help them take ownership and make the opportunity more meaningful to them.
Make it Engaging
Making it personal, as referenced above, can help make continuing education engaging. In addition, make it engaging by going beyond the traditional learning structures. Branch out from the traditional classroom instruction and invite employees to visit local cultural presentations and exhibits by providing free tickets. Encourage company book groups or start a reading program. Work together with local educational institutions to sponsor learning events and more. The possibilities are limitless. If your budget allows, hire an inspirational speaker to help motivate employees to get started (or restart) in their pursuit of improvement.
Another practical tactic is to encourage mentoring inside and outside the workplace. Sometimes it’s helpful to have someone to learn from and interact with as you progress in your career and a mentor can fill this role. Mentoring also allows employees to see real-world applications for continuing education by seeing others who are in roles they aspire to and their accomplishments.
Make it Worthwhile
Whenever possible, cover the costs associated with continuing education. Having to shell out some of their hard-earned paychecks may hold some employees back from taking the necessary steps to get started. Covering the cost of conferences, reading materials (books and periodicals) and sponsoring other learning activities can be worth the cost especially as this type of engagement has been shown to boost employee retention. Research performed by Gallup reported that employees that are engaged and have high well-being are 59% less likely to look for a job with a different organization in the next 12 months. Another study performed by Willis Towers Watson showed that employees that were highly engaged were at lower retention risk than those that were detached or disengaged.
Also, consider incentivizing continuing education. Many companies offer incentives for various programs or performance. While introducing incentives does create an external motivating factor, if incentives are offered in your company why not incentivize something so worthwhile? You might offer extra time off, so employees can continue their education during work hours. Or, you can poll your employees to help develop incentives that would best motivate them to participate.
Encouraging employees to do more than what’s listed in their job description can be a daunting task, but using the above approaches can help employees and the company succeed. Businesses who encourage learning and offer opportunities for additional training have higher employee retention rates and benefit from employees who are engaged and productive in the workplace.