For companies to compete in today’s marketplace they need to demonstrate innovation and adaptability. Providing opportunities for ongoing professional development to employees can help businesses to stay competitive and meet their goals. Continuous learning is about the ongoing acquisition of new knowledge and skills. Workplace development can take many forms from online courses to in-house training. Organizations with a learning culture can enjoy benefits such as better staff retention and more job applicants.
Caterpillar and mentoring
Caterpillar is an American construction equipment manufacturer based in California. Mentoring is an important part of their staff development program. Every new employee is assigned a mentor for their first three years to give guidance on workplace culture, soft skills development, work-life balance, and various other elements of working life. All employees, including senior staff, can explore various departments to learn about different parts of the company and network with other staff. Caterpillar has a reverse mentoring program for young employees to mentor senior employees about new technological perspectives. The senior employees can use what they learn to better navigate the oft-changing technology in the workplace.
Tana Utley, Vice President of Caterpillar’s Large Power Systems Division, believes mentoring adds value to the employee and the company. She thinks employees benefit most from mentoring when the focus is on improving within their profession rather than career advancement. Her career has been influenced most by what she has learned from others on how she can increase her value to Caterpillar. Utley has had many informal mentors who have had a big impact on the way she does her job.
Formal mentoring is more structured with mutual agreement, established learning objectives, ground rules, and time constraints. Mentoring usually works better when the individuals are not from the same management chain. Utley believes the rich source of human connection at Caterpillar helps employees learn from each other and do their best work for the company.
Caterpillar also has many internal programs including professional development in human resources, digital technology, engineering, and leadership and technical development. They have employee resource groups that connect staff with similar experiences or interests. These groups supply opportunities for personal and professional development. Examples are the Chinese resource group and the African business employee group.
nCino and a culture of learning
nCino is a financial technology company based in North Carolina specializing in cloud banking. This company has made staff learning a priority and have made various development opportunities available to staff. The company ethos is that staff development is essential for having a healthy and energetic environment. They believe this is vital to the success of the company.
nCino aims to help all staff reach their full potential. Examples of this are entry-level employees looking to build solid foundations for their careers and new managers wanting to develop leadership skills. Development opportunities at nCino include live instructor-led training sessions on topics such as SMART goals, influencing without authority, and time management. There are self-study industry-related training modules available to staff on the company’s Learning Manager Systems. They offer a six-month Leadership Development program to managers that have just been promoted to management positions. As well as these in-house learning opportunities, nCino also funds conference attendance and qualifications that will increase the knowledge of employees and their teams. The company aims to create a culture of stimulation and growth that will allow employees to build confidence and succeed.
Staff are a business’s most important asset and investing in their development improves loyalty and retention while boosting creativity and productivity. By offering learning opportunities, a business can boost retention and attract new people to their organization.
Leaders and continuous learning
For a learning culture to thrive managers need to fully support staff development while also demonstrating a commitment to their own professional development. They must be role models and show a growth mindset, a willingness to take risks, and take responsibility for and learn from mistakes. They can encourage staff to reflect on their performance and share learning with others.
Leaders have an impact on the environment employees work in. They need the skills to delegate effectively, motivate their team, give feedback, and host effective meetings. Leaders can use these skills to coach their teams and ensure their staff grows professionally. Leaders who embrace continuous learning in the workplace show that they are willing to learn new skills. Effective leaders are always learning, are active in their professional development, and therefore encourage their staff to do the same. They are a role model for learning, sharing their knowledge, and adapting to change. By learning through teaching and learning through doing they can apply theory to real situations and increase the retention of their staff.
Sharing is an important aspect of learning and leaders must do this with their teams. Teaching is also an effective way to learn something new. Doing research, planning lessons, and then teaching will reinforce the information for the teacher as well as the student. When leaders create a culture of learning they inspire change and earn respect from their team. When leaders attend courses, workshops, and conferences they are not only improving themselves, but are also showing their commitment to their staff. They are demonstrating that they are willing to learn new things and are knowledgeable in their field. They can inspire staff by sharing their knowledge at team meetings.
Attending training can also provide chances for networking and staff can learn from the knowledge and experience of other attendees. These connections can lead to new opportunities and support which could bolster career progression. This can give employees new ideas and perspectives and lead to improved performance at work.
When leaders invest in employees’ professional development they are investing in the company, and it is an important part of planning staff progression. Training programs are good tools for training future leaders of the organization. Promoting within the company shows staff that there are opportunities for career progression. When employees are engaged in their careers and know that progression is possible, they are more likely to feel dedicated and loyal to their manager and the organization. It is a waste of time for leaders to motivate staff who feel disconnected from the company’s mission and values.
Leaders can support their team’s development by providing timely feedback on performance, developing clear performance criteria, and supplying resources and incentives for staff who make learning a priority. When learning is given priority the skills of a team’s members will evolve alongside best practices and industry trends. Companies need to keep up to date with changes in the field. With professional development, staff can progress in their overall career path. The ultimate responsibility for development lies with the individual but leaders can make a difference by ensuring they have access to internal and external learning opportunities.
Companies that offer development opportunities are more likely to attract skilled applicants for job vacancies. People have become aware that a lack of professional development prevents them from reaching their full potential. Offering these benefits will attract potential employees who wish to strive for excellence and advance in their careers.
When teams have enhanced skills and knowledge, they tend to deliver a superior service to internal and external customers. They are better informed and have more understanding of customer needs. They can then meet or exceed customer expectations. Staff that have opportunities for continuous learning will often feel more confident dealing with customer inquiries. They are more likely to take on additional responsibility and this makes it easier for their manager to delegate work to them. When teams work effectively managers can concentrate on leading their staff rather than dealing with complaints and problems.
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Benefits to organizations
Continuous learning includes structured and unstructured training, formal and informal learning, and professional and personal development. It involves many learning methods, from simply talking to a more experienced colleague, to studying for a qualification. When lifelong learning skills are developed, there are benefits to the individual and the organization.
With constant social and economic change businesses survive when their workforce is able to adapt. It is not practical to employ new people every time there is an emerging skill. Employees must have skill sets that evolve to meet present and future business needs. It could be new technology or a new process and responding effectively to these changes requires people to learn and develop. Without continual learning, a company will not keep up with changes and innovations in its industry. A culture of ongoing development, however, will produce high levels of knowledge and skills which will be consistently strengthened. Employees will adopt a growth mindset and continually apply and share what they have learned.
Organizations must be competitive to stay ahead in today’s international marketplace and to do this they need to be innovative, and open to change. Accomplishing this requires a workforce with a good level of knowledge and skills. When learning is not a priority in organizations, processes will stay the same and nothing new will be introduced. Employees must challenge themselves to learn new ideas and develop their understanding of their industry. Learning that is on-demand and flexible will contribute to innovative performance and help build careers.
Learning contributes to improving employee performance and furthering personal and professional growth. Building a learning culture can include aligning business strategies with professional development. It can also include having qualified staff to manage learning, a budget that meets learning needs, and leaders who nurture learning in their staff. Companies with strong learning cultures also need to have missions, visions, and values that support professional development.
It was made evident during the pandemic that when times are difficult companies need to adapt to survive. Continuous learning gives the workforce the tools they need to try new things and come up with creative ideas. Purposeful personal development help staff to stay ahead in working practices and keep up with competitors. Staff members who continually learn will be better placed to achieve business outcomes such as a bigger market share and profitability.
Employees benefit from finding their work meaningful. Continuous learning is mentally stimulating and can generate positive feelings. Career development can have a positive impact on morale. When staff feel that their managers and the organization care about their development, they become more motivated, confident, and disciplined. The overall morale of the team is raised, and staff are able to work productively even in challenging circumstances.
With continual learning team members will work more collaboratively. There will be increased productivity and creativity. Every organization has a unique culture with values and policies, and staff training should align with this culture. Leaders play an essential role in establishing a culture of learning by providing development opportunities and making learning a priority.
Having a learning culture can increase employee satisfaction and retention. When staff feel they have a vital and meaningful role in the organization they are more likely to stay. The more they know the more they can offer to the organization. It saves money to keep employees and not have to recruit new staff. Supporting continuous learning can make employees feel valued and more loyal to their employer.
Keep Learning to Make a Difference
Continuous learning has been recognized by today’s businesses as a valuable tool for creating a highly skilled workforce. Companies want to compete in the marketplace and their staff need to be qualified to work with emerging trends. Leaders are pivotal in developing cultures of learning and supporting their employees to access education and training. Many organizations are making professional development a priority and are seeing the benefits of this with productive and creative employees, better staff retention, and more applicants for jobs. Companies are responding to the benefits of developing their staff and are building development programs that reflect their missions and values.