In this day and age, constant education is a necessity. Employees need to develop their skills or risk falling behind the level of their peers, both inside and outside their current workplace.
My firm, Destiny Solutions, recently commissioned a research firm to interview 200 employers from across North America to get a sense of how crucial they thought continuing education was for employees. The researchers found that 70 percent of business leaders said employees need continuous learning just to keep up with their jobs. They also found that 95 percent of businesses had systems in place to financially support an employee’s continuing education.
In all cases, an employee’s training can benefit the parent company if handled appropriately. Before my company pays for additional education, whether it's training toward obtaining a certificate or degree or any other coursework, employees are asked to submit a small proposal that answers the following questions:
1. How will this training affect your current projects or role?
Just-in-time training is much more valuable than generalized training, but the catch is that if someone doesn’t immediately use it, the retention of that information diminishes rapidly over time. Employers ask this question to know how the staffer will use what's learned earlier in the morning on corporate projects this afternoon.
2. Is this training part of a larger learning goal (such as certification or degree)?
All managers must evaluate whether a proposal is opportunistic or strategic. Certificate-oriented instruction is more targeted toward specific skills. Teaching that's designed to confer a degree confers more of a well-rounded feel of subject matter.
Courses offering certificates offer a tactical solution to close skill gaps. Studies toward degrees serve a guide to employees' targeted career path. Both outcomes are valuable, but there must be synergy between the employee’s desires and the company’s needs.
3. Describe how you researched this course or education provider to demonstrate that the content is useful and cost effective?
This turns the tables on employees, pushing them to make the business case back to managers. Instead of managers' rationalizing that a particular program is a sound investment, employees must present why the course is a good fit and that a certain provider offers the best value.
4. Are you willing to present to your peers a summary of the key learning outcomes from this training?
The training allows work experience to be paired with best practices or formal methodology. It permits employees to match what they are doing with what they should be doing, based on a body of knowledge. Plus, the employees can return to the firm and present one of these outcomes:
“Watch what I learned how to do.”
"I’ve validated how we are doing things.”
“We need to change what we are doing.”
Organizations grow based on their employees' development. Beyond that, every good manager knows that the refinement of skills of even a single employee can make good financial sense. But be proactive and put strategic thought into designing the plan to increase the chances for success.