Most of us that manage people know that offering learning opportunities is a great tool to attract and retain talent. Many people that I have interviewed over the years say that the opportunity to learn while employed is very important to them. Many organizations offer to pay for courses and seminars on a regular basis and this opportunity to learn has never been more important…both for the organization and for the individual.
Case in point is AT&T, the US telecom giant. AT&T is facing increasing competition from other telecom companies but also facing new competition from the likes of Amazon and Google as they step into the internet services world. To stay competitive, two years ago AT&T’s CEO, Randall Stephenson, started a corporate program to help employees modernize their skills by paying for their education programs or classes that they enroll in with the focus of getting employees to become more experienced with data analysis and software related skills. This move is especially significant as it allows AT&T to pivot towards becoming a digital computing company that can take huge volumes of data and sort and analyze it through software managed in the cloud. As Stephenson has been quoted “People who do not spend five to 10 hours a week on online learning will obsolete themselves with technology.”
There is an obvious win for the organization when employees are active learners, but it is also good for the employee. With cloud services and technical automation becoming more prevalent, employees who do not learn new skills will quickly find themselves out of a job. I have also found that employees that are more curious and ask lots of questions, are the ones that ultimately contribute more and bring the organization along with them as they build better, faster processes and solve organizational issues. And we have all learned that an active brain is better for our overall health and ultimately enriches our lives.
Some tips for employers:
- Look for lifelong learners and establish ways to assess learning potential such as how long it takes to learn a new skill and if employees are keeping up with market demands.
- Provide access to learning material whether internal or external to the organization. This may require the creation of policies surrounding learning and sponsorship of education.
- Have lunch and learn sessions where employees can share new learnings with their colleagues.
Some tips for employees:
- Regularly analyze how your skills match up to market demands by looking at job sites even when you are not looking for a new opportunity.
- Invest in certifications and join associations of professionals in your field. Associations are a great way to network and learn from like-minded people.
- Dedicate a portion of your time each week to learning something new. Many organizations encourage employees to do this on work time now as there is generally a direct benefit for the organization from the added learning
About the Author:
Marnie Larson is the CEO of StarGarden Corporation and oversees its operations in Canada, US and New Zealand. She has over 20 years’ experience in the software industry and specializes in HCM, Business process automation and Workflow technology.
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