Continued education and training are increasingly important for people entering, and already within, the working environment. Not only is it something employees want, it’s also beneficial to companies, increasing retention rates and profits.
Thing is, not every company can afford traditional employee education, nor is it always desirable. After all, taking a group of staff, sticking them in a classroom, and giving them a certificate at the end is no guarantee that they’ll bring anything useful back with them.
Given that, what are some of the alternative approaches you can take?
Learning by making
Let’s say you want to improve your staff’s digital skills. What’s more likely to get them excited and engaged: spending time in a computer lab being taught how to use a new piece of software, or building a robot (that just happens to let them learn the software on the fly)?
While it may seem completely out there, more and more companies are leaping onto this style of learning which combines design thinking and maker culture.
Evidence of this can be seen in the fact that major financial institutions trust design consultancies like Inquisition to help boost their staff’s digital confidence by doing things like getting them to build autonomous race cars.
You can equip your staff with all the technical skills in the world, but there’s still a good chance they’ll leave for a better opportunity if things are tight at the end of the month.
One way to alleviate is this is to ensure that your employees have the best financial education possible.
According to one recent survey, many employees find their financial benefits (such as retirement plans) difficult to understand.
The best way to solve that, one-on-one consultations with someone who understands what they’re doing.
Even if you don’t have those kinds of benefits, bringing someone in to help your employees (especially the young ones) draw up monthly budgets, will help ensure that their salary goes a lot further than it otherwise would.
That, in turn, will engender longer-lasting gratitude than Friday afternoon drinks.
Peer learning is an increasingly important concept in the education space. Simply put, it refers to students learning from other students. Or, in the workplace, colleagues from other colleagues.
More specifically though, it refers to a broad sweep of activities, from formal mentoring programmes and discussion seminars though to collaborative project or laboratory work, projects in different sized (cascading) groups, workplace mentoring and community activities.
While traditional learning is a one-way activity, peer learning be mutually beneficial and involve the sharing of knowledge, ideas and experience between the participants.
As this Stanford paper notes, people “learn a great deal by explaining their ideas to others and by participating in activities in which they can learn from their peers. They develop skills in organizing and planning learning activities, working collaboratively with others, giving and receiving feedback and evaluating their own learning”.
With the contemporary workplace demanding innovation and collaboration, it’s an approach to learning that makes a lot of sense.
Learning without “learning”
If you tell your staff that they’re going to undergo a training session, you’ll probably get a load of rolled eyes and a few barely supressed groans.
But if you tell them that they’re getting unlimited access to the Kindle store, or a fitness tracker, or time to read, then you’ll probably earn widespread praise for your employee benefits.
While those perks might not seem inherently educational, they all present opportunities for self-guided education.
A fitness tracker, for instance, can help entrench the value of self-care and good sleep in employees’ minds. Kindle access and reading time meanwhile, mean they could find a creative solution to a business problem in a book or magazine.
Learning is a lifelong activity and, in the case of employees, it very definitely doesn’t have to happen in a classroom.