Despite barely being able to keep up with today’s constant technological advances, we are not yet at the stage where information can be automatically transmitted into our brains.
I’m not saying it will never happen, who knows?! But what it means for now, at least, is that the success of any type of training program will continue to rely on people sitting down and taking the time to learn.
In this article, I will investigate why it is often so difficult for employees to make time to learn, why it’s so important that they do so, and 3 things you can do to help your employees develop their skills without having a negative impact on work life balance.
What is Work-Life Balance?
Elon Musk certainly got a lot of attention with his tweet last week – as a billionaire and entrepreneur serving as CEO for four companies, he believes that a person needs to work 80-100 hours per week to `change the world´.
I guess if you love what you do, it doesn’t always feel like ‘work’ and people used to work 60 hours a week during the industrial revolution.
Yet there’s a lot of research on longer hours not necessarily equaling higher productivity and most medical experts agree that the anxiety caused by long working hours and lack of physical activity are bad for our health and well-being.
In fact, work-life stress is thought to be as unhealthy as second hand smoke – yet we’re working harder than ever before.
Work-life balance means something different to everyone, but generally, the term is used to describe the balance that an individual needs between time allocated for work and other aspects of life.
First used in the UK in the late 1970s, the term has been evolving ever since, which is mostly down to recent technological innovations, like the use of smartphones and video chat, making it possible to work without having a typical “9 to 5 work day”.
Nowadays, people have the freedom to structure their work day the way they want to. Gone are the days where we need to be physically present in an office – we can just hop on a video conference in our pajamas if we want to, or actively take part in a meeting on our train ride home.
More than just a buzzword
For millennials, the always-available workplace is all they know and the increase in the number of millennials in the workforce has led to more and more companies acknowledging the value of work life balance and it’s direct impact on employee engagement and competitive advantage.
Google, for example, has created flexible work environments to appeal to millennials and have successfully made work life balance part of their culture, enabling employees to have the time they desire away from the office and to enjoy their time at work.
This is a seemingly ‘magic formula’ and best practice for retaining talented employees that feel valued and nurtured, making them ‘lifers’.
Another great example is Slack’s ‘work hard and go home’ philosophy, which is such an integral part of their culture that it’s built into the product itself – Slack has a do-not-disturb mode to help users ‘make room for the other stuff.’
But, how is this ever-evolving trend impacting the time employees have to learn and grow their skills? Is it a positive impact?
And with enterprises continually striving to create what millennials perceive to be a ‘work life balance’, how can they ensure that employees take the time to learn within working hours and still be productive?
Finding Time to Learn: Why Employee Training and Development is so important
LinkedIn’s talent research shows that half of today’s most in-demand skills weren’t on the list three years ago, and this continual shift in demand for skills is fueling employees’ desire and ability to grow quickly and adapt skills to remain employable in years to come.
For example, IBM´s Michelle Peluso is retraining Marketers on new skills because she strongly believes that employees need Artificial Intelligence and that they need to be prepared for it.
With all these new and ever-changing skills thought to be essential to our future career success, learning and training is definitely high on my priority list.
I, for one, value learning and training that makes me feel enthusiastic about the company I work for and where I feel like I have a connection to the company, but I find it hard to get excited about employee training and development programs without knowing exactly what resources are available to me and what real and tangible, short-term benefits the training has that are specific to my role and career path.
All in all, learning and training is definitely an important factor for me to feel happy at work, however, finding the time to focus on training and development activities within my working day is often a challenge and I don’t think I’m alone.
Most of us are up to our eyeballs in work – it’s hard to ignore what is urgent and this will take priority over any type of training. Even if employees know the benefits of training and development and are dedicated to doing everything they can to evolve their skills, companies are finding it difficult to get employees to make time for learning. In fact, it’s the #1 challenge for staff training and development according to a 2018 LinkedIn report.
3 Ways to Boost Employee Engagement in Learning and Training Activities
1. Make employee training and development part of your company culture
A strong organizational culture is a powerful talent attractor. Making learning and development an integral part of your culture will drive career development, engagement, performance, employee retention, and, ultimately, competitive edge.
Airbnb, for example, have `Fireside Chats´ to show the company’s dedication to corporate learning. These internal events bring in industry leaders who share their insights on a certain topic.
From CEOs to musicians, these leaders always have something invaluable to teach us.
Another great example of a company investing in a community of empowered individuals and one that is putting the right tools in place that make learning fun and easy to access is Pixar.
Pixar offers formal, required trainings, as well as optional and informal classes for different disciplines.
Pixar President Ed Catmull says, “Pixar University helps reinforce the mind-set that we’re all learning and it’s fun to learn together” according to Harvard Business Review.
2. Consider how you deliver employee training and development in your company
Getting this right involves offering short, easily digestible, and compelling content.
Given that experts can be found throughout your organization, let them create content for you by sharing what they’ve learned, easily.
A great example of such knowledge sharing is The Cheesecake Factory YouTube-like learning portal where their employees were given video recorders and asked to videotape themselves solving complex customer problems.
This portal lets any employee upload a video of themselves doing their job well, which they can then share in any way they wish.
Within only a few weeks of building this simple sharing system, people started using their mobile phones to create tutorial videos and sharing stories about how they solve problems on the job. It went viral in just a few weeks.
It’s not just about the content though, it’s about where you put it. You need to put it where employees can access it, on-demand, and during their daily work.
´Working in the flow`, a concept introduced by Josh Bersin, Founder and Principal Bersin™, Deloitte Consulting LLP is already proving highly relevant for corporate learning and development.
Let’s look at a sales team, for example: sellers spend most of their time in Salesforce, so it would make sense to integrate learning content for sellers into the Salesforce application and meet them `where they are´, so to say.
The same can be said for a marketing team and CRM tools they use. By adding interactive performance support with onscreen guidance to your company’s applications, employees can set learning goals, receive recommendations and tips as they learn, apply what they’ve learnt then and there, and get back to work quickly.
These are just two examples of leveraging standard applications that your employees work with every single day, to coach and train them in real-time.
3. Lead by example
All great leaders have one thing in common, they love to learn, and in my view, one of the best motivators for employees, is to see leaders engaged in their own training that they are advocating.
With today’s workforce more specialized than ever, your most talented employees are not in management, they’re experts in various areas of the organization, working for you.
This makes it even more important that these experts see the value of learning and development first hand from a figure they respect and that a learning and development program is put in place to recognize and reward even greater levels of expertise.
Not convinced? Every major brand in the world, including IBM, Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Netflix, follow a lead by example strategy
Reaping the Benefits of Employee Training and Development
Developing employee skills whilst maintaining work life balance is a reality for many companies today, or at the very least, a widely acknowledged benchmark for running a successful business.
Success will depend upon making your employee learning and development strategy the center of your company culture, with a lead by example approach and adopting the right technology to allow employees to incorporate interactive and intuitive learning effortlessly into their daily work lives.
If you are interested in learning more about how to encourage employee to engage with the training and development material available to them, check out our webinar replay with employee experience expert Gethin Nadin.