Study Shows Nearly Half of Employees Are Uncomfortable Asking for Learning Resources

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By: Adam Robinson for Inc., Photo by William Iven on Unsplash

Employees who continuously learn on the job are often among the most productive and engaged. In fact, a 2018 report from LinkedIn found that 94 percent of employees surveyed would stay with a company if it invested in their continued learning and development.

Despite employees’ interest in learning more, not all organizations provide the necessary resources for effective training and development. And a new study from edX, a learning and education platform founded by MIT and Harvard, found that nearly half of employees surveyed are not comfortable asking their employers for additional learning budget.

Employees who do not have access to learning resources are likely to grow stagnant in their careers — and might even leave their employers for more engaging job opportunities.

Does your team have a strategy in place to encourage employee learning and development? I’ve highlighted several key tips for your team to ensure employees have the resources they need to continue growing.

1. Set aside a budget for continued education.

The first tip is simple. As the edX study found, employees hesitate to ask employers for funds to support their learning, so your team should be transparent about any learning budget you have available.

One option for determining a learning budget is allocating a set amount to each employee, which they can use throughout the year as learning opportunities come up. When employees ask to complete a certification course, attend an industry event or tap into another learning opportunity, encourage them to present a case as to why this opportunity will help them grow in their careers and, as a result, positively impact the company.

At my organization of about 200 employees, one of our core values is “Eager to Improve,” so we always encourage employees to take proactive steps to learn more. Recently, a member of our IT department earned his Jamf Certification (a certification for managing Apple devices) and one of our project managers received her Project Management Professional (PMP) certification.

By investing in our employees’ development, they feel valued and excited to be part of the team and can continue to drive great results for the company — and your team can benefit from a similar approach.

2. Turn managers into coaches.

At many organizations, training and development is driven by the HR department. But ultimately each employee’s manager has the most insight into their strengths and key areas of improvement. Managers should serve as a guide to drive employee learning.

Outside of recurring check-ins, managers on your team should meet with each direct report either quarterly or another cadence that works for them to review overall skills and prospective learning opportunities.

On my team, outside of our traditional annual performance reviews, we recently launched quarterly development plans for each employee. For the plans, a list of core competencies is outlined and each manager fills out commentary on each direct report’s current performance and action plan for improvement. This gives each employee an opportunity to have a candid conversation with his or her manager about potential learning steps– including the option of tapping into outside resources. It’s something your company could easily do as well.

3. Collect employee feedback.

A key step to any successful learning and development program is soliciting employees’ feedback. This ensures you’re offering employees the resources they want and need to grow.

Consider sending a survey to employees or setting up focus groups so they can share their feedback about your current learning opportunities, what you might be missing, and how you can improve. After collecting feedback, outline actionable next steps for improvement and share with employees to maintain transparency.

Every employee, from interns and entry-level to the executive team, should have learning resources available to them for continued growth. A commitment to employee learning will ensure employees don’t hesitate to reach out for help, ultimately leading to increased productivity, profitability, and employee engagement at your business.

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