With 68% of employees preferring to learn at work, companies have a responsibility to cultivate workplace learning. As they explore the best way to implement an environment of self-improvement, the concept of creating a centralized, comprehensive learning and development (L&D) program is gaining traction.
Initially inspired by the concept of extending university-like learning into the workplace, workplace L&D programs have evolved to become more dynamic than the traditional method of learning taking place on college campuses. When done right, workplace learning is much more than employees taking a course in a classroom. Best-in-class programs include custom-built deliverables that encompass employee onboarding, e-learning, professional development workshops, technical training, lunch ‘n’ learns, tuition and conference reimbursement programs, leadership book clubs, and more.
You don’t need to build a comprehensive program overnight, however. Starting with any of these elements is a great way to hit the ground running. Regardless of how much you can invest in your program, L&D should be at the core. But one word of advice—it will be hard to build something meaningful and sustainable without executive support.
Here are three reasons why your organization should invest in creating a centralized learning program:
Attract and Engage Top Talent
L&D is essential to bringing the best of the best on board. Personal and professional development opportunities are important workplace characteristics, especially among today’s workers. A Gallup report found that nearly 3 in 5 Millennials say opportunities to learn and grow are extremely important to them when applying for a job—a much higher rate than past generations. Now that Millennials comprise the largest segment of the workforce, it’s clear top talent will be reluctant to join your company without an L&D offering in place.
These individuals can not only explore learning opportunities themselves but also teach courses relevant to their expertise, allowing your workforce to learn from subject matter experts within the company and receive top-notch instruction. Allowing employees to teach also gives them a sense of greater purpose and importance within your organization beyond the fulfillment from their actual job. While some companies purchase off-the-shelf training solutions, there is a real benefit to using internal resources and customizing the experience to the needs of your organization. Providing opportunities for both instruction and learning helps foster a culture where employees are encouraged to expand their knowledge and share it with each other.
Develop and Retain Current Employees
L&D programs demonstrate your commitment to putting your employees first. Investing in their ongoing education is a reflection of your priorities. In many workplaces, the only training offered centers on compliance (e.g., antiharassment and antidiscrimination). While this is a critical part of any training program, your employees crave a wider selection of learning opportunities, such as professional development (e.g., best practices for hiring and interviewing), leadership development (e.g., effective decision-making), soft skills (e.g., cultural sensitivity), and technical skills.
We were surprised to discover that one of the most in-demand courses at Lucid is basic coding. In fact, the class has a wait list of over 100 people (of 350 total employees), most of whom do not work in technical positions where programming is a necessary skill set. This underscores an important point about L&D programs: They should be designed to help employees develop both professionally and personally. Providing a wide range of content tied to employees’ interests provides a strong motivation for them to stay because they can keep learning and growing at work.
Enhance Company Culture
Great companies take every opportunity to reinforce a culture of continued improvement, innovation, and teamwork. L&D programs are an excellent way to do that. But what should your “curriculum” be about? Conducting a needs assessment, surveying employees, and interviewing managers all provide valuable insights into shaping your L&D program.
Personal finance company Credit Karma noticed its employees were holding ineffective meetings, so it addressed this need by adding a course in its corporate university on how to run an effective meeting. Now, purposeful, productive meetings have become an integral part of its culture, boosting productivity and performance. Employees can experience how important education is to your organization as they work together to complete courses that, in turn, enhance their ability to work smarter.
I believe education is at the heart of innovation. Companies that invest in creating a learning-rich environment in the workplace will enjoy a competitive advantage in attracting, developing, and retaining talent and cultivating a high-performance culture.
Kat Judd is the VP of People Operations for Lucidchart, where she is responsible for providing employees with the right resources to succeed and fostering a culture based on the company’s core values—teamwork over ego, passion, innovation, and ownership. A 10-year veteran of management-side employment law, Judd was a shareholder and director at Clyde Snow & Sessions before joining Lucid. She has experience in preventive advice and counsel, workplace investigations, and employment law training. She holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Brigham Young University and a JD from the University of Utah, where she was named Young Alumna of the Year in 2016.