The importance of employee learning for business success
Your employees are an investment. But not just because you pay them wages. We invest time and money into training employees. But there's no reason education should end after initial job training. So, let's look at how investing in employee learning benefits businesses.
Employees are the backbone of any company. They handle all the ground-level responsibilities, including customer service. And few things can make or break a business like the experience their customers have.
On top of that, a company's employees are also its future. But reliable succession planning requires you to be able to promote from within. This means employees need the skills and knowledge to be able to fill those roles.
So, it falls to HR to develop and provide effective employee learning opportunities.
What does "employee learning" even mean?
"Employee learning" is an umbrella term. It encapsulates everything. From the basic skills and systems training, to education on a whole host of industry-relevant topics.
Employee learning is also closely tied to employee feedback and performance management. As such, it's possible to manage employee training programs using a regular employee check-in.
But there are all kinds of ways businesses can supply learning opportunities for staff. Team workshops have long been a popular method for teaching new skills. These might be conducted in-office, or involve going away to an accredited training event.
But, in recent years, online skills training has become a lot more common. People are more likely to complete their training on a computer than at an in-person workshop. So, businesses have started using Learning Management Systems (LMS) to organise employee training and development.
These tools are an accessible way for employees to engage with educational opportunities. And, the wider the variety of learning opportunities you offer, the easier it is for people to pursue the development that's right for them.
How employee learning benefits your organisation
Investing in employee education might seem like an unnecessary expense. After all, if everyone knows how to do their jobs, why spend extra money teaching them stuff?
But employee learning benefits businesses in all kinds of ways. So, if you aren't investing in employee learning and development, you'll lose out to the companies that are.
Employee learning boosts engagement
Engagement is the extent to which an employee feels attached and committed to their work. And, by extension, their colleagues and the business as a whole.
Long-term engagement's biggest enemies are boredom and repetition. But learning helps employees to expand their horizons and keep challenging themselves professionally.
Employee learning leads to gains for performance and productivity
Educating employees directly improves their ability to be productive. According to research from IBM, 84% of employees in the highest performing companies agreed they were receiving the training they need. By comparison, only 16% in the worst performing businesses agreed the same.
And this makes sense. The more learning opportunities someone has, the better they understand their role. Which means they're better equipped to find the most efficient and effective way of delivering results.
And there's boosts to customer experience and satisfaction
Nothing influences customer experience more than an employee's abilities and engagement. In other words, you need well-trained people who take pride in their work.
Keeping employees up to date with the tech they use is important. But there's a lot more to it than that. There are lots of personal skills which are important for effective customer service. Many of them soft skills, like:
- Active listening.
- Conflict de-escalation.
- Working autonomously.
The skills of work are changing
For the most part, evolving workplace tech is a good thing. It allows us to work more comfortably and effectively. But tech is changing so fast that entire skillsets are becoming outdated.
According to LinkedIn's 2023 Workplace Learning Report, 25% of job skillsets have changed since 2015. And 89% of L&D professionals agree proactively building employee skills will help to prepare for the future.
Retention versus turnover
One of the key challenges for HR and management is making sure employees stick around. According to LinkedIn's report, 93% of businesses are concerned about turnover.
And their research shows that providing learning opportunities is the most effective way to boost retention.
And that's because training and educating employees shows you're invested in their development. So, in part, it increases loyalty because they know you care. But it's also because people are more likely to stick around if they know they have opportunities to grow.
Better financial performance
From a fiscal perspective, this is the most important of all employee learning benefits.
For one thing, it's a matter of employee performance. Better training and learning opportunities help them to be more productive. And, once you've broken even on training costs, that increased performance is pure profit.
On top of that, improved retention means you're also cutting back on turnover costs. Not just recruitment, but also the training costs for future hires.
Developing employees is good for your brand
Employee learning benefits your brand in a few ways. For one thing, high standards of training makes a customer experience feel more professionally delivered. It's the kind of thing that can have a significant impact on word-of-mouth.
Similarly, employees with lots of learning opportunities are more likely to advocate for your business. Both to potential customers and possible future hires.
Employee learning improves innovation
Hard work is only half of a winning combo. The other half is innovation. But good ideas aren't born in a vacuum. And new developments don't have to come from the top down.
Well-informed employees can be a great source of innovative insights. After all, they're the people getting a close-up look at things every day. So, in many ways, they're best-positioned to see areas for improvement.
Just remember to give credit where it's due. If you don't give recognition to employees who innovate, they have little incentive to do so.
Decreases the likelihood of skills gaps
Sudden, unexpected skills gaps can be a logistical nightmare. And one of the biggest employee learning benefits is something called critical redundancy.
Between holiday and sick days, you never know when you might suddenly be without specialist personnel. Having certain skills or knowledge be more prevalent makes your business more stable and flexible.
Improves workplace culture
Everyone contributes to work culture, be it passively or actively, positively or negatively. And we do this in all kinds of ways. Like how we engage in two-way feedback with our managers. Or even small interactions, like the conversations we have.
Employee learning benefits work culture by improving awareness. Engaged employees are more likely to be active contributors. And, as they become more knowledgeable, they're more likely to spot areas for improvement.
Employee learning: you get out what you put in
Hopefully, by now, we've illustrated just how many reasons there are to improve employee learning. But, if your company coasts by with minimal training investment, you might struggle to see the benefits of spending more.
The thing is, investing in employee learning benefits the business in the long run. And, more often than not, your gains are directly proportional to your investment.
But invest smart
That said, we aren't suggesting you throw money blindly at the issue of employee education. It's important to identify the areas of training your business needs.
In part, this is going to mean keeping everyone trained up on your latest tech. Whether that means teaching them to work with AI, or a new till system.
But it also means investing in soft skills and wellbeing-related issues. Like emotional intelligence, active listening, mental health awareness and self-care.
If you're not sure where to begin, don't worry. The simplest way is to start by talking to your people. And we don't just mean senior leaders and fellow HR folk.
Bring everyone to the table and give them all a voice. That way, you can identify:
- The parts of jobs people love or hate.
- The unseen obstacles for engagement and performance.
- The kinds of skills employees are interested in.
Having this discussion will help you to make informed decisions. But it's fine if you're still not sure where to start. In the coming months, we'll be following this piece up.
We'll be diving into each of the benefits we've outlined today. And even discussing some of the best training and development strategies for the modern workplace. So, we'll see you next time, when we carry on learning about employee education!
A weekly employee check-in is the foundation of more modern performance management practices. Download your fully editable Employee Check-in Template here 👇