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Employee learning is important for businesses. So much so, that U.S. companies spent $90.6 billion in employee learning in 2017 alone. You’d think with that spend, companies would be seeing massive success. According to McKinsey, however, that’s not the case, with the majority of survey respondents saying their training efforts are not effective as-is.

Instead of simply checking a box, and offering learning opportunities without any value, focus on making your programs effective. If not for your budget, do it for the 74 percent of employees that feel they aren’t reaching their potential at work.

Here are a few ideas for upgrading your employee learning opportunities, make better use of your budget and keep employees engaged.

Offer an Annual Conference Pass

Many companies allow time for out-of-office learning, but a free, half-day seminar is a much different experience than that of a large, 3-day conference. There are a number of factors to consider here, including cost. According to Hubspot, total costs of attending a conference range from $4,630 to $10,230, and this accounts for the cost of attending, in addition to lost work and productivity.

Still, Hubspot explains that there are many benefits, for your employees and your business, including:

  • Learning new skills
  • Uncovering unique ideas
  • Gaining courage and confidence to try a new idea
  • Creating new relationships
  • Practicing the ability to process data and turn it into useful tips for the team
  • Improving relationships among employees

Not to mention, attending an expensive conference may not be an option for employees who have to pay out of pocket—even if they really want to go. You don’t just pay for their conference attendance, but you boost their loyalty to your company. 

Start an Intrapreneur Program

One of the best ways for employees to learn is to let them run with one of their own ideas. While this is great for employees who are entrepreneurially spirited, it’s great for your business too. Facebook “likes,” the Sony PlayStation, Post-It Notes and Gmail were all invented by employees—not founders or even executives.

A successful intrapreneur program empowers your employees to take chances and inspires them to try new things. With the go-ahead from leadership and mentors, they may be more willing to overcome their fear of failure, making them an even better employee for you too.

To be most effective with your in-house program, follow these tips from experts at Cirqles:

  • Validate all ideas through a discovery phase, rather than jumping right into incubation.
  • Find a program mentor. “A mentor can hold intrapreneurs accountable and — if the mentor is not part of your company — can help remove the biases that we have.”
  • Build a team of people who want to participate; open it up to others later.
  • Make time to learn and reflect: What went wrong? What went right? What can we do better?

To build a strategy and framework for your intrapreneurship program, dive into this extensive resource from Academy for Corporate Entrepreneurship.

Create a Blended Learning Strategy for Developers

There are few places where employee learning is more important than within your development team. Technology is moving at a rapid pace, and in order to keep up, your tech team needs to be on the front lines. Despite this ever-evolving nature of technology, it’s a challenge to keep this team engaged, while growing within the company and their career. Tim Kulp, Director of Emergent Technology for Mind Over Machines explains: 

“One of the core challenges I have faced is helping team members build their career goals and cross the chasm of ‘how do I get from where I am to where I want to be?’ I’ve seen many team members who burn out or leave an organization because this question cannot be answered.” 

This is where upgraded learning, and a developer learning strategy, comes into play. Kulp suggests implementing a mentoring program with a clear track for progressing forward, but don’t stop there. 

The 2018 Developer Learning Survey Report found that there’s a wide range in learning preferences between senior to junior developers, including reading-based, instructor-lead, and video-based learning. As such, survey authors suggest your strategy should be all-inclusive: 

“L&D managers should adopt a blended learning strategy which combines reading with private, dedicated training courses, along with outlets for peer-to-peer mentoring and coaching (e.g., internal company meetups). Online technical libraries or video libraries such as Pluralsight are ideal resources to include in such a blended learning strategy.” 

This blended learning strategy allows you to engage every member of the team, and may even be effective with other groups within the company. Test it first with your technical team, and then implement organization-wide.

Upgrade Employee Learning

Take your learning to the next level to make the most of your budget and give employees what they want: a chance to boost their skillset and grow. Use these ideas as a jumping-off point for your internal training. Don’t forget to modify and test as you go to figure out what your employees like best and what’s most effective for your business.

About the Author(s)

Jessica Thiefels

Jessica Thiefels has been writing and editing for more than 10 years and spent the last seven years in marketing. She’s now a consultant and coach and offers organic content marketing packages and 1-on-1 coaching to small businesses and entrepreneurs.

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