The Imperative of Continuous Employee Learning: A Priority for Executive-level Leaders

The Imperative of Continuous Employee Learning: A Priority for Executive-level Leaders

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It’s clear that one of the most significant drivers of staff retention is continuous employee learning.

A 2019 LinkedIn survey found that 94 percent of employees would stay at organizations that offered them satisfying training and development initiatives. 

At the same time, executives have struggled to encourage remote teams’ participation in continuous learning programs. 

What is continuous employee learning? 

“Continuous learning is a workplace culture that encourages employees to prioritize ongoing learning and improvement. Continuous learning can happen through various formats, including formal courses, informal learning, shadowing teammates, training programs, one-on-one and group coaching, and casual interactions,” said Maile Timon for Workramp.

In other words, continuous learning involves giving team members the time, financial resources, and platforms that let them drive their own professional development. Simultaneously, they need the support, direction, and programming that makes their learning worthwhile.

So, many leaders wonder how they can create effective continuous employee learning. Here, we’ll talk about three important priorities that executive-level leaders should keep in mind. 


? Seek feedback on training needs from managers rather than HR professionals.

The success of continuous learning initiatives rests, in large part, in managerial involvement.

According to Gallup, “70% of the variance in team engagement is explained by the quality of the manager or team leader.” 

In other words, if a manager promotes a training initiative, their team is likelier to engage with it. If a manager doesn’t seem interested in a company-wide learning initiative, then his or her direct reports are less likely to participate effectively. 

So, how can executives ensure that managers and team leaders promote continuous learning projects? 

For one, they should seek feedback on staff professional development needs directly from managers. As it is, team leaders are more likely than HR or trainers to know what team members need to know and to encourage their direct reports to seek out that education. 

“This could be in the form of a regular survey, supplemented by in-depth discussions with a selected group of managers who can give feedback and guidance on training initiatives as they’re designed,” said Anand Chopra-McGowan for Harvard Business Review.


? Adopt cohort models to encourage training completion.

The Internet is rife with learning modules that can teach employees nearly every skill, program, or technology under the sun.

Training is cheap and self-paced, meaning that professionals can learn whatever and whenever they want. 

Too bad that the completion of massive open online courses (MOOCs) is only three to six percent.

Enter cohort-based courses (CBCs). In this alternative, students complete the course content with others learning the same content. Students also participate in hands-on training activities and receive feedback from instructors. 

These courses also have start and end dates, so students can’t work on them indefinitely. 

“When Harvard famously transitioned its case-method courses online and incorporated peer collaboration in 2014, its completion rate rose to 85 percent, while most MOOCs at the time were experiencing single-digit completion rates.

At Juno School, a cohort-based coding boot camp, data from 116 students who graduated in the first half of 2020 showed an employment rate of 74.1 percent within nine months of graduation,” said Wes Kao for Future.

So, companies have opportunities to either create cohort-based courses of their own or identify CBCs with high-completion rates that teach staffers what they need to know. 


? Practice what you preach.

According to Lars Vestergaard, writing for CEO World, some executives don’t participate in continuous learning.

This is a mistake, he says. Even if they’ve reached the top, Vestergaard argues, executives should always continue training. There is always something new to learn, practice, or implement. 

It’s equally important for executives to share their continuous learning journeys with their team members. 

“[W]hen executives get involved in creating and curating content, it can help drive employee engagement, too. It’s the ‘practicing what you preach’ phenomenon that demonstrates authentic leadership and makes others want to follow your example,” he said.

For instance, you could create a channel on your team messaging platform where you share articles, videos, and learning initiatives that you have consumed. Share webinars or certifications you think team members would appreciate – and encourage them to do the same. 

These types of initiatives create a culture of continuous learning, demonstrating that staffers can improve themselves and advance through both formal and informal learning. 


Prioritizing Continuous Employee Learning


Training and development are huge drivers in boosting company hiring and retention.

So, executives should recognize how important it is for their team members to be able to participate in useful continuous learning initiatives. 

So, connecting with managers about what their team members need to know is a strong first step, as is developing cohort-based learning models for whatever training you offer. 

What’s more, executives should participate and share their own lifelong learning programs with their teams. If C-suite execs prioritize self-development, then your colleagues will, as well. 

Interested in learning more? Read Emory University’s Goizueta Business School’s article “Why Learning is a Cornerstone of Innovative Leadership.”

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