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How to rewire your team to make time to learn

September 13, 2017  |  Pluralsight
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Fact: Learning pays. 

Invest in your employees and that investment comes right back to you. In one survey, 85 percent of workers indicated that employer-provided training increased their own workplace loyalty. The same survey showed that workers who trained just one hour a week saved 1.8 hours per week—or 83.7 hours per year—through productivity gains.1

If the return on training is so high, why do nearly one-third of IT professionals report they don’t receive workplace training?2

More often than not, it’s a matter of time and how leaders find the way to make more of it for employee skill development. In a survey of 300 enterprises, 69% said lack of time was the biggest challenge preventing their teams from investing in professional development.3

Making the shift: Cost vs. investment  

Many see learning as an opportunity cost: something must give if time is afforded to learning. From the employer’s perspective, professional development programs can seem like one more initiative that doesn’t fit into an already full project roadmap. And for workers who are continually being asked to do more with less, how does stopping everything to learn ever pay off? 

The reality is that learning represents a crucial investment in a company’s ability to leverage technology and remain agile. Forward thinking companies use learning benefits to attract, retain and develop top talent, and savvy workers recognize training as an essential investment in their growth. 

Finding time for to improve skills becomes a two-way street: in order to make learning initiatives successful, both leader and worker need to embrace its value. This is probably going to take some changes. Below we’ve listed 3 keys to making time for learning and outlined strategies for making it happen. 

Key #1: Make learning a part of organizational and team culture 

Why it matters: A culture of learning emphasizes professional growth of team members. Supporting corporate learning initiatives sends a powerful message to your organization that you’re committed to job success, career development and general employee well being. It also illustrates that the individual contributions of team members are critical to the achievement and progress of the organization. 

How it's done: Small, meaningful changes at a culture level can have a big impact on your learning initiative. Start by writing the organization’s commitment to learning into the company or team core value statement—this helps eliminate confusion about the organization’s support for professional growth. Consider launching a monthly lunchtime learning program or developing job-swapping and mentoring opportunities among employees. On the team level, set aside 15 minutes each week for someone to share a skill with the group—whether it’s related to a tech task or not.

Key #2: Reward and recognize the investment your team members are making

Why it matters: Who doesn’t love being recognized for their contributions? Taking time to learn, when employees are already juggling demands of a 9-to-5, takes dedication, so reward a job well done. Incentive programs help motivate team members to grow their skills and keep pace with their peers. A company-wide recognition system can also help unite your teams under a common goal and create comradery and connection among its members. 

How it's done: Come up with positive, easy ways to communication achievement in private and public ways. We have more than a few ideas. Try displaying completion certificates or awards in a centralize location where everyone can see them. If you set up your program with team goals, you can also display progress charts  with aggregate information about how the team is doing. Send out an email or put an announcement in an internal newsletter congratulating teams on their new skills or project wins. Bring in lunch or go out for coffee to mark the achievement of your learning goals. There are many ways to go about celebrating learning accomplishments–get creative! 

Key #3: Block out specific times for team members to concentrate on training

Why it matters: We saved the best—and hardest—for last. No matter how much you embrace learning or reward it, if your team members feel like they don’t have the time to develop new skills, they’re not going to do it. 

How it's done: The key is to approach learning in small increments—here a little, there a little—at a team’s preferred pace. For example, could a weekly meeting be cut from 60 minutes to 40? If so, the remaining 20 minutes could be used to sharpen skills. Our platform structures courses so they can be consumed in bite-sized segments, and learners can work in courses, assessments and mentoring according to their schedule. In contract, attending a seminar can disrupt current projects for days and are often designed to be a one-size-fits all learning style.

Leadership holds the key to learning 

Learning is an indispensable element of success, both for organizations and the people who make them run. As the pace of change accelerates and technology continues to evolve, a skilled and nimble workforce is key to staying ahead of the curve and the competition. The need to skill up your workforce pairs nicely with employees’ desire to advance in their career and have impact in their work. 

Still, finding the time—and making new skills a priority—remains a challenge. Organizations must reinvent themselves to support ongoing professional development and see ROI from their learning initiatives. This provides an opportunity for leaders to spearhead important changes that greatly benefit their teams.

Leadership should encourage their teams to reach their goals, recognize and reward achievements, and be a partner in finding ways to make time for learning. Support from the top of the organization will help reinforce the idea that learning is an integral part of the business and crucial to keeping the organization agile. Workplaces that fully embrace a culture of learning make time for professional development will strengthen the skills and capabilities of employees and leaders alike. It’s a result that makes finding the time worthwhile for everyone.

Sources

1 2016 Pluralsight Report

2 Information Week IT Salary Survey 2014

3 Pluralsight BAO 2015 survey of 300 enterprises

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