What happens when organizations do not focus on the Learning and Development of the employees? Any organization must have a clearly defined Learning and Development Strategy. Here using the word Learning and Development, I mean the true competency mapped Learning and Development Plan for the individual employee! Let us talk about the numbers for easy understanding. This will help us to understand the gravity of the situation. As per a study by Galop, in the US, approximately 17% of employees are disengaged. Galop has also found that an organization suffers a financial loss from a disengaged employee (in terms of productivity loss, unplanned leaves, etc. This does not calculate the cost of possible attrition though) is about 34% of the annual salary of the individual! The below table will explain to you the all, why do we need to improve employee engagement.
How to handle the situation? An organization must have a solid Learning and Development Strategy. Provide the Learning and Development opportunities to the employees as they need to learn to develop themselves. Now, here the critical question comes! Which of all areas should the organization spend money on employees upskilling? Is it for the skills which the employee is using today or may need to use tomorrow (driven by organizational priorities), or should the employee interest drive it?
Honestly, we need to balance both. If we say – we shall sponsor only those training or certification which is driven by organization priorities, then employee engagement will not go up significantly. On the other hand, if we decide to sponsor any upskill effort by the employee who is purely based on the individual’s growth plan – then it might get misused (I shall get trained and then apply for a job outside of the organization)!
From my experience, what I found is – the below strategy works fine to address both these areas and improve employee engagement significantly while decreasing the attrition rate as well.
- Any upskill requirement driven by the organizational priorities and tagged with individual employee’s competency development plan will be sponsored 100% by the organization. Once the employee completes the training or certification, we shall not ask the employee to sign any service agreement.
- If the training is purely based on the employee’s career development plan – then the organization can offer the employee two options:
- The organization will sponsor 100% of the cost, but the employee will have to sign a service agreement for one year. This means, if I leave before one year, I shall have to pay back the training cost to the company. That, I am sure you will agree is a fair ask.
- The organization will sponsor 50% of the training cost, and the rest 50% will be picked up by the individual employee. In this case, there will not be any service agreement to be signed!
I have found that these two have produced excellent results in different organizations, in terms of improved employee engagement and deduced attrition!
One more critical point here in Learning is – create a conducive safe learning environment. Please remember, over and above formal Learning, and an employee often learns a lot informally also. Informal Learning is from day to day work experience, colleagues, advice, or suggestion from seniors everything. While, for regular formal training, we create a safe environment for Learning (where learners are free to make mistakes and learn from the mistakes), during informal Learning, often the safe environment is missing. I agree it is challenging to create a safe environment during the day to day work. However, we can try to do the following:
- When you are delegating a new piece of work to someone, give proper coaching and handholding, have someone experienced to shadow the resource.
- Be with the resource to see whether the person is facing any challenge or difficulty or not.
- If the individual faces any challenge or difficulty, help the individual to solve the problem by own (do not take away the work from the individual. That way, they will never gain the confidence of doing something new).
- These cases, take some extra time to deliver the work, please do not expect that someone doing a new type of work first time will have the same efficiency or proficiency as an expert.
I have seen, with these steps, the employee gain confidence in doing something new and becomes an expert very quickly. This is a very effective way to increase the engagement of the resources.
Another gap in terms of engagement and learning culture is the way employees’ performance is measured. For example, – the organizations which measure the performance based on the outcome, do not value the efforts put by their employees. We must understand that, when I am putting my effort into learning something new and then implement the same, the outcome may not always be as good as an expert doing the same thing! Now, if I am compared with people who are experts in this kind of work, I will always underperform. If I am penalized during the performance management (or achievement) process, then I shall not take the risk of taking up a new role ever! I shall never be willing to come out of my comfort zone and try something new. This means, in those organizations, innovation, disruptive thinking will never happen.
I have found that the organizations, who have a different performance system; that gives value towards the employees’ effort they put into Learning, Measurable improvement in skills and passion for growth often get innovative ideas (some may click, some may fail), disrupting thinking.