Employees Are Over Foosball Tables and Free Snacks. Your Company Culture Needs This Instead.

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“Don’t waste my time.” From refusing long commutes to eliminating non-essential meetings, employees have new priorities, and using time in valuable ways for more fulfilling work, improving skills or better work-life balance is a of them

It’s up to companies looking to retain and attract talent to rebalance their expectations and priorities to match. Employees have stopped asking for fancy offices with footballs and kombucha on tap. Let’s face it, most employees are done with free snacks. These trends, including the increased willingness of employees to leave for greener pastures, are likely to continue. A survey revealed that only 17% of employees say they want to work in the office full-time.

Instead, employees want learning and development (L&D), the opportunity to improve skills and opportunities for growth. L&D is a real carrot: A Gallup report shows that 87% of millennials say career growth and development opportunities are important to them in a job. Ninety-four percent of employees say they would stay in a job longer if the company invested in their learning and development. And they want it wherever they are, whether in the office or working from the back of a camper van.

Related: Here’s How to Increase Employee Retention with Lifelong Learning

Building a modern learning culture

The good news is that a learning culture isn’t just beneficial for your employees. It’s also a fantastic competitive advantage for your business. However, for a company to really stand out and reap the benefits for both employees and employer, it needs to become a ‘learning organisation’. This is not a new concept, but the complexity has been growing as we evolve the workplace to meet modern and flexible working approaches. If a learning culture takes root in this environment, it requires more intention and focus than ever before.

Cultivate a “learning is everyone’s job” mentality.

Learning is not left to employees to do in their spare time. Instead, it’s built into the job by setting learning goals, time and budget for courses or projects and professional development processes that focus on learning, not just moving up bigger titles or more compensation.

Shift your perspective forward.

Many companies measure the success of learning activities based on the number of people who showed up, the hours completed or the registrations. These backward perspectives tell us what has happened and completely misses the point. Did anyone learn anything? In a world where we’re trying to waste less of an employee’s time, we need to be laser focused on what the learner can do on the other side.

Focus on the role of “learner” and recognize from within.

Most people know that it’s more expensive to recruit than to retrain, but few companies change their talent strategies significantly to address this. The most innovative companies refer to their employees as a talent market and realize that hiring starts from within. The focus shifts to growing learners who can change and take on new roles. To do this, the company must commit to playing for the long term and creating opportunities, such as rotations and cross-cutting initiatives, for people to take on new responsibilities and challenges.

Related: How Investing in Employee Training Benefits Your Business

Learning as connection

Extended work from home, hybrid work policies and remote onboarding programs have increased isolation and loneliness in the workplace. Luckily, learning can be the antidote.

Video calls alone can only go so far in building relationships and truly interacting with each other. Worse, simply replicating experiences in the office on a video call can have the opposite effect and discourage connection. I recently attended a virtual workshop that did nothing but turn on the facilitator’s camera and did not use additional technologies to interact with the audience. It was painful.

So the question remains: How do we create new spaces and better leverage technology to connect, whether online or in person? There’s a win-win solution for both employers and employees staring us in the face that already uses technology effectively: cohort-based online learning.

Cohort-based collaborative online learning brings numerous benefits. Learning together and interacting with a group of peers provides a meaningful and structured way to promote interaction and social connection. These experiences often merge teams and enable cross-functional interaction, which has been a casualty of new hybrid and remote work structures. They also make the best use of synchronous and asynchronous time, taking advantage of the best of each world.

But the best part? People learn best in groups. Social interaction and peer learning is a more effective way to develop skills. In collaborative learning environments, collective knowledge is fostered, mentoring becomes more accessible, and social dynamics encourage persistence. It’s a win-win. Company culture is built around shared learning experiences that build connections and relationships that are also more effective.

Purpose and connection

The work environment has changed irrevocably. Business leaders who don’t respect people’s time and priorities and find ways to make work meaningful hold their companies back. We need new strategies to retain and attract talent. Employees seek purpose and connection rather than frivolous perks. Fortunately, learning can provide a mutually beneficial way forward for both employees and employers.

Related: 6 Ways to Keep Your Employees Learning on the Job

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