To some extent, every day on the job is an education — no matter what kind of job you’re doing.
If you work in marketing, for example, you learn a lot about what kind of stories get your customers’ attention, what leads them to engage with content and ultimately become a sales lead.
Those who work in sales, meanwhile, teach themselves a lot about what kind of pitch can overcome a prospect’s objections, and the kind of information that gets them from an initial meeting to a closed deal.
Then there’s customer service, which might be defined as an ongoing education in how to talk customers down when they can’t get their products to work as expected.
Beyond all the learning experiences team members get as they complete their day-to-day tasks, though, the most successful businesses know a great employee experience includes plenty of other educational opportunities.
When companies invest in their team’s education, it sends a powerful message. You’re telling them you recognize them for more than the work they do, but the people they are. You’re saying you see potential in them, and that you’re committed to helping them realize it. You’re adding professional development to the list of reasons it’s worth staying and building a long-term career with your organization.
Education can take many different forms, of course, which is important given the myriad ways in which employees will prefer to learn and develop. This includes in-person experiences, online educational opportunities and those that mix the two.
In some cases companies will provide opportunities or assistance to help employees build their skills in areas that relate to their current job. Others will go broader, encouraging and supporting employees who want to learn new skills that make them better prepared to shift into a new kind of job.
As you think about some of the options below, think about how you can have a broader conversation with your team about the educational opportunities they value most, and how you can build onramps to explore them:
In highly competitive fields, showing you’re willing to pay for people to continue their education can be a key differentiator. It’s up to the organization to determine what qualifies for assistance or reimbursement, but examples range from one-off classes, bootcamps and workshops to a Master’s degree, such as an MBA.
Not everyone has the kind of schedule that allows them to show up for classes on a particular day and time every week for months on end. There are also employees who might prefer to learn at their own pace. This was part of the thinking behind resources like Trailhead, which allows anyone to get up to speed for free on the technologies provided by Salesforce, as well as badges in a host of other business-related subjects.
These bite-sized chunks of education are sometimes credit-bearing, which means they contribute towards a formal qualification based on an assessment. In other cases they simply provide skills development to people who are in mid-career or who are exploring new fields. Salesforce For All is a great example of a microcredential program that started here and is helping new Canadians accelerate their path to finding jobs in critical areas of business.
There’s no better way to learn about what it takes to succeed in a given role than being allowed to follow in the footsteps of someone already doing it. Companies can create policies whereby managers are encouraged to put forward the names of individuals who would benefit from seeing first-hand what senior executives do, or even to observe their peers in other departments in order to deepen their understanding of various disciplines.
Sometimes you don’t need a class so much as the tools that allow you to learn by doing. Books are probably a classic example — they’re obviously critical in many areas of learning but can be cost-prohibitive for some employees. In other cases a stipend could allow a team member to purchase a software application or other equipment that develops their skills.
Whether it’s a multi-day summit or just a virtual gathering that a takes place over the course of an afternoon, employees can reap all kinds of benefits when their employers allow them to attend industry events. They might get inspiration or best practices from a keynote speaker. Breakout sessions could give them a window into what peers in similar companies are doing to overcome common challenges. Best of all, employees who attend such conferences are often willing to share what they learned with the rest of the team when they return.
Employees will be incentivized to further their education when they see that their leaders hold it as a key value themselves.
Even if you’ve been running a department or an entire business for years, make sure the team is aware of the books you’re reading, the certifications you’re trying to earn or the conferences you’ve earmarked in your calendar. Adopting a beginner’s mindset mean you’re being open to new ideas and not limited by your knowledge of how business has traditionally been done.
Setting the right example will help drive adoption of any other initiatives you introduce to help employee further their education. This also means reporting back, sharing your progress and showing that you aren’t thrown when certain subjects prove difficult to master.
Lifelong learning is really a prerequisite to success in almost any kind of job. If you can cultivate an organizational culture that puts education at the forefront, you’ll be teaching employees that one of the best decisions they ever made was joining your team.