Learning and development is an essential part of building a successful team.
Through training and coaching, a company’s management can make a real impact on the skills of their employees.
But business leaders rarely create programs that appeal to employees. Despite big investments and high intentions, their professional development initiatives often fail to resonate with team members.
So, how do you get your employees to care about learning and development?
You need to change your approach completely.
By supporting a growth mindset, offering flexible learning and mentoring support, and incentivizing involvement, business leaders can easily boost employee growth:
Adopt a Growth Mindset
A lot of employees aren’t psyched about learning at work because they don’t think they can learn. Rather than tying their success to their effort, they believe talent is innate —they either have it or they don’t.
The business and psychology buzzword for this term is a “fixed mindset,” which severely limits a sense of empowerment around growth. To engage employees, leaders need to create an environment that overturns the overturns this belief and instead favors a growth mindset.
Carol Dweck, the psychologist behind this research, summarized the difference between the two in the Harvard Business Review:
“Individuals who believe their talents can be developed (through hard work, good strategies, and input from others) have a growth mindset. They tend to achieve more than those with a more fixed mindset (those who believe their talents are innate gifts).”
When people believe they can grow, they’re more likely to learn — and invest in their own growth trajectory.
Hire High Achievers
To foster a growth-mindset work environment, hire employees with a natural tendency to stretch themselves. When skimming resumes, look for the patterns of high achievers: self-development initiatives, advanced professional development trainings, upward growth, and fast promotions.
Use the interview process to identify candidates who exhibit enthusiasm and a willingness to grow through challenges. Questions about when they faced doubts or difficulties — and overcame them — can give business owners a clear indication of the candidate’s openness to learning.
Shift Your Management Style
To support a growth mindset in your current employees, incorporate these three ideas into your management style:
- Encourage reasonable risk taking. When employees know that they’re rewarded rather than punished for stepping outside their comfort zone, they’re more likely to take a chance and learn something new.
- Reward progress and effort rather than results. Acknowledge everyday progress with verbal acknowledgments and praise. People will strive to improve and grow when their boss recognizes meaningful changes.
- Support collaboration among staff rather than competition. Workers are likely to help each other progress when they see each other as team members rather than rivals.
By adopting and fostering a growth mindset, you overturn the myth that some employees are innately talented and inherently more valuable than others. This approach to management sets a strong foundation for improvement among each employee, not just your most talented worker.
Start a Mentorship Program
If you create a mentorship program with the primary purpose of helping employees get involved with learning and development, you’re bound to see results. Train mentors to act as sounding boards and coaches for mentees, supporting their professional growth. In particular, these questions can help mentors to identify the best steps for their mentees:
- If there’s one skill you could learn here, what would it be?
- What’s the most rewarding thing you’ve done on the job?
- Is there a part of your current role that you love? If so, can we build on that?
- Describe your favorite day at work.
By inquiring into each employee’s interests and passion at work, mentors can help employees connect the dots between their day-to-day work and professional development. These relationships also create accountability, which is key to a successful development plan. Regular, bi-weekly check-ins give companies an opportunity follow up on their team’s participation in learning and development.
Shift to Flexible Learning Programs
Employees rarely have the same aspirations or career path — creating the same development program for everyone decreases its relevancy. Instead, give your employees clear ownership of their own learning and development plan with flexible, online opportunities.
Set the intention to align the programs with the needs and goals of team members. First, send out a survey that gauges the interests of employees. Ask about what they like — and don’t like — about the current professional development options.
For example, a lot of employees want to learn 21-century skills like computer coding. An adaptive employer would incorporate these interests into a career development plan and make use of those skills on the job.
It’s easy to adapt to the needs of each employee with online learning tools. Cloud-based development software like Lynda.com gives workers the flexibility to follow different trajectories and learn their preferred skills on their own time. There’s no required attendance or specific meetings — instead, they create their own path. Businesses benefit from pairing these online programs with use mentorship initiatives and even interest groups to give employees extra support and encouragement.
Incentivize Professional Growth
By incentivizing participation, companies give their employees more reasons to take advantage of professional development opportunities. Start by framing learning and development as the clearest way employees can work toward a promotion or a raise.
Require participation in some learning and development programs for any promotion, regardless of their level of experience. Outline the steps that each worker can complete to move into the next salary or job level.
Offering tangible rewards to employees who invest their time and energy can also have a meaningful impact. Develop a yearly or bi-yearly awards ceremony that recognizes the accomplishments of your staff. Think about passing out gift cards or small financial rewards when employees meet their learning milestones. These forms of recognition incentivize participation by making it fun, positive, and financially rewarding.
If you want to take professional development to the next level, consider subsidizing the cost of a degree program at a nearby university or college. Tuition reimbursement programs are the clearest way to let employees know you value their growth and development — you’re willing to pay for it.
When implemented well, learning and development programs support important metrics like employee retention, business growth, and engagement at work. More importantly, they create a strong emotional bond between employers and employees, supporting a positive workplace built on shared progress.