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How positive learning culture and upskilling decrease stress

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This month is Stress Awareness Month 2022. The role of learning and upskilling is not to be underestimated in reducing the stress levels, explains Degreed head of EMEA Dan Tesnjak.

14th Apr 2022
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More often than not, we talk about learning in terms of helping people advance their careers. But there’s another layer to learning that’s super important — feeling good. 

Learning is a big part of self-care. When you learn, you gain confidence. And when you’re feeling more capable, you’re feeling less stressed. With knowledge on your side, work tasks become easier to complete.

It’s easier than ever to stay up to date with the skills you need to be successful, no matter what your career goals might be. Increasingly, employers offer employees online learning opportunities on thousands of topics available on-demand as courses, videos, books, podcasts, and more.

Keep in mind: It’s one thing to explore new skills, but it’s another to ingrain them into your everyday flow. To become truly proficient, you need to apply new skills in real-world ways. 

You can do this by taking on new projects, by volunteering in your community, and by mentoring or teaching other people interested in gaining the same capabilities. And if your employer provides you with these or other types of opportunities for enrichment, don’t hesitate to raise your hand.

How learning can support

Over half (55%) of workers feel that as their confidence in their skills decreases, their stress levels increase. Upskilling in in-demand skills can help someone feel less exposed to job uncertainty, be more attractive on the job market if the worst was to happen, and also show that their employer values them and their career growth. 

It also gives them a goal to work towards and focus on during uncertain times. This is where targeted learning opportunities can help support people with their stressors. 

Don’t add extra pressure

That said, you don’t want to be adding more to someone’s already overloaded plate. So offering upskilling opportunities must be a person-centric activity. 

Collaborate with your learners to understand what they need right now, what skills will help them feel safer (psychologically, economically, and socially) and help them do their current jobs better. 

Today’s training needs to take a holistic approach that considers the extra pressures on people’s time, attention, and workload. Training cannot be a ‘chore’ or an extra thing on their to-do list, it needs to seamlessly fit into their workday, in a format that they enjoy. 

Consider the best formats to offer each learner (everyone learns in different ways). There is a breadth of learning content out there, from online courses and videos to blogs, articles, books, podcasts and peer-led learning. 

Some may be more engaging and effective than others depending on your learners and your learning culture. For example, employees in a positive learning culture are 92% are more likely connect with peers or mentors who want or have similar skills.

Stability is essential

It’s vital to communicate stability and security and upskilling for future roles can help with this, by showing someone that they have a future at their company. In fact, 41% of UK employees are now more likely to leave their employer if they don’t see a commitment to their upskilling. 

Again, it’s essential to take an individual-centred approach with this as careers are personal journeys. Ask a learner what roles or projects interest them, either now or a couple of years into the future. Then use these insights to shape their learning and work opportunities.

workers who rate their managers positively are likely to have talked to them about career goals in the last 12 months

Encouraging learning

Some people may freeze when faced with the learning journey and this can cause long-term damage to their career prospects. If they are too scared to make a move — any move — then their skills will stagnate and eventually expire. 

In such circumstances, learning leaders may have to find creative ways to kickstart enthusiasm and energy for learning. This might involve providing more emotional reassurance that learning and career growth opportunities are ready and waiting for them. 

It might require tapping into a wider social circle of peers to facilitate learning. Once again, a personal approach will prove invaluable as one stressor for one frozen learner might be different from another’s. 

Regular reviews will also help and will prove more beneficial than an annual review right now. It offers an opportunity for people to check-in on their stressors, skills, career opportunities and any lingering concerns. 

The role of the manager is essential in this, as we have seen that workers who rate their managers positively are 515% more likely to have talked to them about career goals or growth opportunities in the last 12 months.

Don’t Stress and Do Sleep

Finally, don’t underestimate the importance of rest and sleep in the stress-free learning journey. Physiological factors like stress and sleep play a major role in how well you remember information. 

We all remember spending nights before exams cramming in as much information as possible. Unsurprisingly, this isn’t a great way to remember things. When learning new skills, it’s worth taking your time, not stressing about it, and getting at least eight hours of sleep. 

Research has found that sleep is essential for sorting and storing your memories effectively. If you want to decrease your stress and increase the chances of your new skills to become part of your long-term memory, you’re going to have to catch some z’s. 

Read next: Why it's time to reconnect with the fundamentals of L&D

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