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5 ways to nurture continuous learning

By Simon Winfield, Managing Director, Hays UK & Ireland

Following the economic recession, many employers in Ireland cut back on staff training. As the fog clears and our economy returns to growth, we can now clearly see the net impact of years of under-investment in training – a shortage of skilled workers available to capitalise on today’s opportunities. Failure to invest in learning has long-lasting consequences, and many sectors are now playing catch-up to find the skills lost.

We know that learning and development are key priorities when considering a new job. In fact, our research has shown that 44% of candidates would decline a job offer if it offered no training and development opportunities. Many – if not most – candidates ask about these opportunities at interview, and most employers claim to offer them to their employees.

Unfortunately, the reality of a busy working environment sometimes means that staff training can become sidelined in favour of more pressing priorities. This can cost organisations dearly, with employees naturally more likely to leave their job if they feel a lack of development is causing their careers to stall.

As a shortfall in learning and development activity has consequences for business performance, attraction and retention of employees, how can you, as a leader, encourage a continual and effective approach to learning within your team or organisation?

1. Keep your strategy focused

Examine the skills gaps within your organisation and reflect on their longevity. Are they only temporary or will they be the same in 5 years’ time? Think carefully about where to allocate your resources – don’t prioritise the present at the expense of the future. Keep line managers in the loop in terms of strategic development so they are able to align their staff development with your big-picture approach.

2. Be adaptable

Endeavour to fit training around the way your employees work rather than the other way around. Is a whole day in a meeting room going to be conducive to learning, or can you modify your approach? Short “lunch and learn” sessions are excellent opportunities for team upskilling alongside a more tailored programme of classroom, on-the-job and one-to-one coaching according to what suits individual employees. To maintain employee engagement and information retention, consider utilising interactive technology. Obstacles to training can be broken down with bespoke offerings that factor in the different ways people approach learning.

3. Utilise your own expertise

Utilise the expertise that already exists within your organisation and determine how your experts can guide other employees in the right direction. Take a holistic approach to identifying talent – who is the best speaker, the most familiar with a piece of technology, the best salesperson? Recognise and reward these experts by creating opportunities for them to mentor others, whilst simultaneously creating learning opportunities for your wider workforce.

4. Keep training accessible to all

Training should not just be the territory of the new starter. Professional development opportunities should be identified at every level of an organisation and learning resources made visible and accessible to all. Be prepared to embrace new methods and technologies to maximise effectiveness, and don’t be afraid to offer employees control over their own learning – some progressive companies now allow dedicated time to spend on self-directed development and side projects.

5. Lead by example

The most successful people never stop learning. Some of the biggest names in business are the most intellectually curious people out there, and the first to admit where they lack expertise and when they want to do something about it. Make it clear that learning and development is intrinsic to your workplace culture and something your people managers should actively encourage staff to invest time in.

Our training and development is something we are extremely proud of at Hays, and we provide on-going training to employees throughout their Hays careers: from interns to senior leadership programmes for our most senior directors. Find out more about our approach to training and development at Hays.

About this author

Simon joined Hays in 2006, having commenced his recruitment career in 1993. Initially responsible for our businesses in Western Australia and Northern Territory, Simon relocated to the UK in 2014 where he was responsible for our operations in the West & Wales and Ireland, before being appointed Managing Director of the UK & Ireland business in 2018.

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