Company culture, workplace flexibility, and wellness perks all play a role in keeping employees happy and engaged. But there’s another driver that’s often overlooked: learning.
In fact, nearly all (94%) employees say they would stay at a company longer if it invested in their learning and development, according to LinkedIn research. On top of that, millennial and gen Z employees, born between 1995 and 2010, say the opportunity to learn and grow is the number one thing that inspires them and makes them want to work harder. Learning was even more important to these generations than the nature of the work itself or getting a raise.
There’s one problem. Employees want to learn, but more than half say they don’t have time. This is especially true for nearly two-thirds (63%) of Millennials who are eager to learn, but say that they are too busy, our research found.
So how can companies help employees make more time to learn? By supporting them in key moments that matter in their careers. Whether learners are in a big career transition, such as starting a new job or getting a promotion, or they want to get better at their current jobs, organizations should support them in the right way, at the right time, throughout their career journey. To foster this culture of learning, there are a few best practices that can help.
Provide on-demand learning opportunities
Support learners with quality bite-sized learning when they need it. A new analyst doesn’t understand how to build a pivot table. A manager is preparing to present to his executive team. These are the moments when learning can help. By offering quality, micro-learning content, employees can choose the learning that best meets their specific needs.
Giving employees the resources they need to direct their own learning is exactly what they want. All generations rank self-directed learning experiences as their preferred approach to learning, but it’s highest among gen Z at 43% and millennials at 42%.
This may be why talent developers’ budgets are shifting to online learning. Compared to three years ago, 59% of talent developers spend more of their budget on online learning and 39% spend less on instructor-led learning, according to our 2019 Workplace Learning Report.
Make learning social and interactive
More than half of employees say they value collaborating with instructors and other learners in forums, groups, or a Q&A session while taking an online learning course, our research found. This is the highest among millennials with nearly three-fourths saying that they value this, followed by gen Z.
Mobile is also important, with half of Gen Z employees saying they prefer texting colleagues to any other form of communication; 22 percentage points more than even their millennial counterparts.
For employers, this means that building online, mobile and social learning experiences is key. With various learning channels at employees’ disposal, they can learn both when they want and how they want.
Create manager champions
Activating managers is a powerful way to help employees take the time to learn. When managers are engaged, then so are their teams.
Employees say that the number one way that they discover the skills they need to improve or progress in their roles is when their manager provides specific guidance. And, three fourths (75%) of employees say they would take a course their manager assigned.
These are significant numbers, and employers should not undervalue them. By ensuring that managers understand the value of learning and make it a priority, it will be engrained in the organization.
Help learners build their soft skills
Creating a culture of learning isn’t just about helping employees build hard skills, it’s also about focusing on uniquely human skills that everyone needs, regardless of industry or job.
When it comes to soft skills, creativity, persuasion, and analytical reasoning ranked as the top three most in-demand skills for companies to cultivate in their employees this year.
Employers shouldn’t forget that employees recognize the need to build their skills. Only a third strongly agree that they have all the skills needed for their job today. This presents a big opportunity for organizations to ensure that skill development is part of the culture of their organizations.
With the rise of AI and the looming skills gap, creating an always-on learning culture has never been more important. By supporting learners in the moments that matter to their careers and making learning a valuable use of their time, you’ll not only have happier employees but retain them as well.
Tanya Staples is the vice president of Learning Content at LinkedIn.