Use learning as a perk and see your people and your business grow

Helping your people grow
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Integrate learning into your rewards and recognition offering and you will see a learning culture grow within your business, argues Rajeeb Dey, CEO of Learnerbly.

If I mention employee rewards, or perks, what springs to mind? Many employers will think first of financial incentives and bonus schemes, or maybe they’ll point to the most traditional trade-off for tenure, a sabbatical.

Of course, most employers are getting round to the idea that money alone isn’t enough to attract or retain staff. That’s why more of today’s forward-thinking companies include flexible working in the mix, or offer quirky perks like free lunches and beer on tap.

But is this really what employees want? What if we could offer more meaningful and sustainable rewards, which benefit both the employee and employer at the same time, such as access to training courses, coaching sessions or tickets to a conference?

In most companies, learning and development is considered to be the responsibility of HR teams or talent managers, but it is not seen as a way to reward people. In fact, L&D and rewards and recognition often sit in siloes.

I am a fierce advocate of taking a bottom-up approach to learning. This means putting the employee in the driving seat, and letting them choose when and how they learn.

What’s more, in many cases, training today is seen as a remedial method, a way to fix problems rather than a way of rewarding or encouraging progress – it is the stick, not the carrot.

That old model is broken and it is becoming even more outdated as the needs and motivations of our workforce change.

Consider that, according to Bersin, 87% of recognition programmes focus on tenure. We now work in a world where the median tenure for workers aged 25 to 34 is three years. That means that in a traditional company, young workers may never see any recognition for the work they’ve done.

This is not only an outdated view in today’s workplace, it is a ticking time bomb and could lead to much greater opportunity cost. That’s because employers need to tackle a number of challenges in coming years.

Putting learning and development at the forefront

First, there is going to be more pressure to maintain a workforce with relevant skills. It is estimated that the average shelf-life of skills in the future will last just five years. That means we need to develop a culture of learning and reskilling today that will ready us for the technological changes that are coming.

Second, employers are facing a fierce race for talent and it is what the future workforce is asking for. The future of work will put the employee in control and the millennial worker will have a more flexible, arguably less traditionally ‘loyal’, approach to employment.

Employers should see learning opportunity everywhere and factor this into the rewards and recognition programme.

Crucially for those workers, who will make up 75% of the workforce by 2025, learning and development is not only a benefit, it’s a necessity. In fact,  it is estimated that 94% of employees would stay at a company longer if their employer invested in their career.

Simply put, the opportunity to learn and access training is the most valuable reward we can offer our employees, so we need to change our view of what learning and development is, and bring these two functions together.

We already know that recognition and rewards are vital in boosting engagement, productivity and loyalty, so when this is tied closely with learning and development it can drive innovation within the business and prepare your people for the future. Learning is not only a benefit to the individual, but to the company as a whole.

So how can employers do this?

Give the benefit of time

A recent LinkedIn report showed that the number one reason employees say they are not engaging in workplace learning is because they don't have the time. So why not give them time as a benefit? The most famous example of this is a version of Google’s 20% rule. Giving people the space and time to invest in their own development outside of their job description is a benefit and a reward.

Keep it simple

If an employee has done a great job, the simplest way to reward them is to top up their learning budget, or offer a training bonus to spend on things that will help further their career.

Not only will the employee feel like their great work has been recognised it'll also show them that their employer trusts them to make the right decision on how to further develop. 

Give employees the power to choose

I am a fierce advocate of taking a bottom-up approach to learning. This means putting the employee in the driving seat, and letting them choose when and how they learn.

Why not apply this to rewards and recognition? We know millennials are determined to increase their skills, so by giving them the freedom to choose their own benefits and perks, it is likely they will invest in activities that will help them and your workforce develop.

Change your definition of learning

This is the most fundamental change that employers need to get to grips with, which is an understanding that learning should not only be defined as structured training. In fact, employers should see learning opportunity everywhere and factor this into the rewards and recognition programme.

Understand that when learning is a perk, it doesn’t have to look the same as it used to. It’s the employer’s responsibility to feed people's interests and go beyond technical skills to help them develop more broadly.

Measure it

One fundamental factor in seeing rewards and recognition as learning is the concept of measuring its impact. We know that if things are measured, they get done. So set up a rewards and perks system that monitors impact and progression.

This will not only mean you can track over time, but will show your employees that you’re taking an active interest in their growth.

All of this will help you build towards a ‘learning culture’, which will be vital for employers and people alike if we’re going to overcome the changes that will inevitably take place over coming years. So now is the time to invest in your people and improve your employee brand by showing that you understand the value of learning – that you understand it is a perk, not a punishment.

 

About Rajeeb Dey

Rajeeb Dey

Rajeeb is passionate about helping people connect to opportunities and flourish in their careers. Most recently he launched Learnerbly – a workplace learning platform powered by experts. Learnerbly is working with forward thinking clients such as IDEO, ustwo, Carwow, GoCardless and others to helps their employees find the best classes, conferences, coaches and content tailored to them.

Prior to this he founded Enternships, a portal which has connected students and graduates to internships and graduate jobs in over 7000 startups and fast growing businesses for which he was named the “02 X Young Entrepreneur of the Year” and the youngest recipient of the Queen’s Award for Enterprise Promotion in 2013.

Rajeeb is also the Co-Founder of StartUp Britain, a national entrepreneurship campaign launched by Prime Minister David Cameron in 2011 and is a vocal supporter of social enterprise, serving as a Trustee of UnLtd, the Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs for over 9 years.

 

Rajeeb graduated with 1st Class Honours in Economics and Management from the University of Oxford and was appointed the world’s youngest Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2012 aged just 26. He was named as one of the 1,000 Most Influential People in London by The Evening Standard as well as being recognised in prestigious publications “Who’s Who” and “Debrett’s People of Today”. He was appointed Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the Queen’s 90th Birthday Honours List in June 2016 for services to Entrepreneurship.

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20th Mar 2018 11:14

Great article. In these challenging times financially for many companies, offering development and time to develop to employees is 'proof' of your commitment to your workforce.

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