Employee engagement refers to the extent to which an employee is committed and enthusiastic toward their work assignments and the organization. Engaged employees are happy, productive employees who produce quality work. The learning function plays a crucial role in increasing employee engagement and driving both individual and organizational growth.
Learning and development (L&D) provides people with opportunities to solve problems, some of which they may have never experienced before. There are several areas where L&D supports people to improve their skills, competencies and capabilities.
Developing Skills — Today’s New Currency
There are various needs for today’s learners. Some of them want to deepen their knowledge in areas of expertise they have gained over time. Some like to develop wider knowledge about similar technologies or concepts they know. Others are curious to learn and experiment with newer tools and trends that are introduced within the industry. And some want to experiment with new industries or roles.
So, be it upskilling, reskilling or cross-skilling, learning professionals need to be on their toes to provide learning solutions that match the learner’s interest. Acquiring new skills and knowledge or improving existing ones provides more confidence in employees. They can apply these skills at work, which in turn increases their engagement as well as productivity. This leads naturally to the next point of developing careers.
Fostering a Growth Mindset
Today, career development has a new connotation — it’s not just about securing a promotion; it’s understanding growth prospects and seeking opportunities to do things which may be completely new. This gives people opportunities to expand their paths, adapt to changes in industry and environment and create value with the merging of multiple skills that are acquired.
When employees see a future with growth prospects, they are more likely to be engaged and committed to their work. L&D has a critical role in supporting people to carve out a career which they aspire to and which plays to their strengths. People are empowered to explore and discover areas through various resources, tools and guidance that are provided by the learning function. Learning professionals also help with curating content to enable people to quickly gain knowledge of what they are looking for. The learning function encourages learners to develop a growth mindset, which emphasizes the belief that abilities and intelligence can be developed through dedication and effort. Learners can understand that challenges and setbacks are opportunities for learning and growth. This brings us to a critical question: “With the pressure at work, how and when do we learn?”
The learning function plays a crucial role in increasing employee engagement and driving both individual and organizational growth.
A Lifelong Learning Culture
Organizational success comes when people grow in various areas through raising their bar of competence and knowledge. Agility in learning only comes when there are resources such as online platforms that provide eLearning, books, videos, live sessions, interactive labs and external workshops, seminars, knowledge sharing forums, etc. This enables people to stay updated on industry, domain and technology trends.
Learning professionals should create newer initiatives and opportunities for people to network, share and learn from each other. Investing in the growth of people truly leads to an increase in engagement and happiness quotient. Engaged employees feel valued, empowered and motivated to perform better. This brings us to the question of how we enable people to perform at their best.
Coaching and Empowerment
People need to be supported and guided based on their level of knowledge and expertise. Where the knowledge is new and expertise is low, a direct approach works better since the employee is a learner. But as the learned concept is practiced more and more, the learner now turns into a performer, wherein they only need guidance in deciding the right path. This can be done by asking probing questions and guiding them to think in different ways they may not have considered before.
Learning professionals help to empower and coach people both by linking them to experts and providing tools and knowledge. Again, when people feel confident and empowered, their sense of autonomy, responsibility, ownership and belonging boosts engagement levels.
Performance, Feedback and Recognition
Developing skills, ongoing learning, coaching and empowering people leads to better performance. It is important to have dialogues with people on a regular basis, enabling people to understand what went well and needs to be sustained, and what can be improved or done differently. This also provides people with a good understanding of their strengths, where they can complement others and achieve excellence at work.
“Feedforward” is a great concept wherein managers focus on improving future outcomes rather than assessing past actions. Appreciating great work and rewarding people for their achievements creates a culture of high performance, a sense of value and leads to great engagement levels, all of which are vital for effective leadership.
Developing Leaders of Future
Learning function and professionals play an important role in creating a pipeline of leaders in the system. Most importantly, leadership is not a position but a journey of experiences. The learning function motivates and inspires every person to believe that they can spark the leader inside of them, providing a supportive environment to grow and reach new heights, enables them to take larger roles and responsibilities, and helps in greater commitment and satisfaction.
Cultivate Resilience, Adaptability and Flexibility
Providing a safe environment for learning helps people to overcome the fear of failure and to see failure as a stepping stone to success. Uncertainty can be emotionally challenging for many learners, hence why learning professionals need to support employees with resources to manage stress and anxiety. Encourage making mistakes during a learning period. This also helps people recover from setbacks when they face them in the future and start looking for opportunities when a problem is placed before them. The flexibility and adaptability people practice during learning helps them embrace change with a positive mindset.
The power of L&D today is to prepare learners for ongoing changes in the workplace and enable them to achieve excellence through skills development, knowledge sharing, developing leadership capabilities and promoting lifelong learning. Investing in employees’ career development and growth through training makes them feel valued and committed to their roles, resulting in a more productive, loyal workforce.
By Sujatha Das