Here’s how to create learning opportunities that support the full employee lifecycle.
Most companies have onboarding plans and training opportunities for new employees. Some have clear leadership development tracks for future managers. But many organizations do not systematically and progressively provide learning and development opportunities for everybody else, the rest of the time.
It’s a huge missed opportunity–especially in a labor market where employees are leaving their companies in search of career development. A recent McKinsey report found that the top reason employees quit their jobs between April 2021 and April 2022 was the lack of career development and advancement – cited by 41%.
It’s time to do things differently. It’s time to shift the focus to the employee experience, the employee’s journey at your workplace. In the learning and development world, that means it’s time to create learning opportunities that support the full employee lifecycle.
Here’s what that could look like!
ATTRACTION: Highlight Development Opportunities to Attract Employees
Your reputation precedes you. Build relationships with groups, organizations, and communities where potential future employees already gather.
Look for sponsorship opportunities, speaking engagements, mentoring relationships and other ways to engage. Show through your words and actions that your company builds the skills of your people and the potential of the communities you serve.
As you build your employer brand across a broader community, you’ll reach a broader talent pool. You’ll also set expectations with potential employees and referral sources that yours is an organization of continuous learning, not just initially but throughout the entire employee lifecycle.
RECRUITMENT: Engage Potential Employees in Learning
If you’re committed to developing employees – and you’re ready to support employees who don’t yet have the skills you need – actively seek out potential workers who would be drawn to skill development opportunities and career paths.
Actively recruit beyond colleges and universities. Connect with your communities and partnerships to post your job openings. Ask employees to share job openings with their social networks, to tap the effective referral approach to hiring.
Consider dropping the college degree requirement for jobs where one isn’t necessary for success. Review and update your job descriptions to lead with skills, so you minimize unconscious bias in your hiring efforts.
Consider internships and apprenticeship programs for people interested in the field, so participants entering your field of work are building the skills they need to thrive. Offer job opportunities to interns and apprentices graduating from your programs, to help you fill job openings with skilled employees. Even those who don’t join your team may become ambassadors of your learning brand within your community.
ONBOARDING: Activate Team Members from Across the Employee Lifecycle
It’s not just new employees who learn during the onboarding period. Done right, your onboarding initiative can be a learning and development opportunity for managers and others who are more established in their roles.
As part of onboarding, you can involve numerous team members who can help with the new employee learning – while building, stretching, and practicing skills of their own.
- Event managers: Create a team to organize the dates, times, rooms/Zoom links, agendas, and facilitators.
- Managers: Set expectations for daily manager check-ins with new team members.
- Speakers/facilitators: Invite employees to address the group to share best practices, knowledge sets, and/or to answer questions about what it’s really like to work at the company.
- Peer guides: Assign volunteer guides to specific new hires, helping them navigate the first few weeks and months.
Over time, you’ll build an expectation across the company that the whole team has value to add and a role to play in supporting the initial learning of new employees.
DEVELOPMENT: Make Ongoing Learning a Part of Each Employee’s Work Life
This is where some employers fall short. Once employees are generally proficient in their jobs, it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day “to dos” of work life and overlook the value and importance of continuous learning. But that approach doesn’t serve employees or employers well.
Employees want to keep learning. A recent LinkedIn survey found that 40% of Gen Z workers would be willing to accept a 5% pay cut for a job offering significant career growth opportunities.
And, to keep up in the market, employers need their workforce to stay sharp, flexible, and informed.
To make learning essential throughout the employee lifecycle, “bake in” skill development and learning opportunities into the everyday rhythm of work life.
- Performance conversations: For many companies, employee performance is a routine part of employee-manager conversations – not an annual event. Be sure managers are skilled at checking in with employees about their learning goals and skills development. Support open conversations about career paths and opportunities.
- Skills assessments: Conduct skills assessments at least annually, to confirm progress. Encourage employees to do self-assessments any time they want feedback. As a team, make it a practice of marking milestone skill achievements, celebrating the success of teammates.
- Career paths: Define your company’s career paths, so employees have visibility into what it takes to succeed in their chosen career. Consider flexible career path options, so employees can test out new careers without leaving the company.
- Learning paths: Establish and review learning paths for employees. Seek out stretch experiences for employees to build new skills. If an employee is working on presentation skills, invite them to present to their team. Next, extend it to a small group of an adjacent team. Finally, involve a larger group. Ask for their feedback on their experience and provide feedback from the manager’s observations.
- Mentoring: Mentors can be invaluable sounding boards and guides for employees early in their career. They are also excellent learning opportunities for the more established mentors. Keep your mentor pool fresh.
At any point in time, most employees can be learning in their role while teaching or guiding others, as well.
RETENTION: Reskill and Upskill to Retain a Skilled Workforce
Employees want to do work that matters. It’s up to employers to ensure that their workforce is strategically aligned with company goals to ensure success for all. In our rapidly changing world, that alignment may require periodic efforts to reskill or upskill groups of workers.
As a company adopts new technologies and processes, groups of workers may need to learn and practice new ways to do their work. If an industry changes – for example the auto industry shift from gas-powered to electric-powered vehicles – there may be large groups of workers whose skill sets are mismatched with the evolving needs of the company.
Upskilling is when employees learn new skills to progress within their role or career track. Reskilling occurs when employees learn new skills that replace existing (usually outdated) skill sets. In either case, supporting your current employees in building new skills will help you retain a skilled and loyal workforce that’s motivated and prepared to support your company through your inflection point.
SEPARATION: Tap Into the Expertise of Retirees and Other Experts
Employees leave their companies for many reasons – retirement, relocation, dissatisfaction, or new opportunities. Whatever the reason, there’s still room for learning at this stage of the employee lifecycle.
Consider these activities:
- Exit interviews. Ask departing employees about their learning experience. What worked? What didn’t? By reviewing the feedback and data you collect, you’ll have information to shape program improvements.
- Knowledge sharing. If appropriate, invite departing employees to share some of their knowledge with a group of people who would benefit from hearing their wisdom. Potentially, record the presentation and save excerpts as learning assets.
- Consulting. Some retirees are interested and available for project work or part-time work that taps into their expertise. By engaging experts who have left the company, you provide a resource to support a person, team, or project. You’re also modeling the value of ongoing learning beyond an employee’s last day with the company
As a senior leader, manager, or learning and development professional, look for ways to naturally incorporate learning and development opportunities throughout the employee lifecycle. The more learning is entwined in the fabric of your work life, the more your workforce will continue to develop skills and engage with the company – keeping you aligned for the long term.
Are you working to create a learning culture that engages all employees? Download our Competency Management Toolkit to understand how a competency-based approach can help you build a brand and program of learning excellence across the employee lifecycle. Or contact us to find out how Avilar’s WebMentor Skills™ competency management system could help.
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Reskilling, Upskilling, and New Skilling: What’s the Difference? Why Does It Matter?