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5 ways to increase employee engagement with continuous learning

by Susan Dumas - June 11, 2018

Time to competence is the amount of time that it takes to get an employee performing to a certain level in a job. Competence includes knowledge, skills and the set of abilities needed to do a job. In a world of digital transformation, up-skilling and new job roles are common, so time to competence is an important consideration for many organisations. When it comes to employee engagement, time to competence is very important. 


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On average, staff now stay in each job for four and a half years and skills become half out of date within five years (skill half-life). With careers lasting 60 to 70 years these days, you can see how continuous, lifelong learning is vital. 


The most successful organisations have shorter time to competence, but how do they manage it and what impact does it have?

It turns out that time to competence has a big impact on employee engagement. Your staff want to learn new skills quickly and be a useful part of your organisation as soon as possible. 

According to Gallup, the experts in measuring employee engagement, staff are more engaged during the first six months of their tenure with you – the so-called honeymoon period. This is your time to make a good impression on your staff and set down the right foundations.

Along with time to competence, the changing nature of an average career will also impact how you support your staff. Put simply, your staff must learn more, faster, and for longer – just to keep up . Continuous lifelong learning is the new requirement for the workplace. 



Source: The 100-Year Life, Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott


As the nature of work evolves, continuous learning is becoming more and more important – it should make learning and staying up-skilled as easy as possible. Here are five ways you can improve time to competence and help staff with continuous learning.

1. Onboard employees early using the latest digital learning techniques

From the moment your new recruit signs up, you should start the on-boarding process. Many companies now create specific digital learning resources for this very purpose. Before they arrive at your building, they should know your values, core polices and even the equally important, more practical things like the location of the canteen and the dress code. Interactive 3D walk-through videos are now easy to create with smartphones. Many companies involve their current staff in making these sorts of welcome videos. The best companies even assign a mentor or buddy to communicate with new starts and answer any questions before they arrive.

Twitter’s famous From ‘Yes to Desk’ on-boarding programme does just that. You can learn more about top on-boarding programmes here. 

2. Create a culture of lifelong learners

Organisations that create a culture where learning is seen as a natural part of everyday work – and make it easy for employees to learn in the workflow – tend to have higher employee engagement scores.  Learning in the workflow means providing tools and resources for employees to learn as they work, rather than making learning a separate activity.

Most organisations are gradually transforming their classroom or course-only form of training and support into a flexible set of learning tools and methodologies to suit how modern organisations work. Some businesses worry about losing classroom training and the impact that this will have on engagement. The good news, though, is that the increasing sophistication of digital learning content and tools rarely impacts employee engagement negatively.

Bottom line – if you set your learning culture right at the on-boarding stage, you’ll firmly establish the
foundation of learning that all successful organisations need. 


truth about employee engagement

3. Encourage a culture of self-directed learning

Self-directed learning means letting go of the “sage on the stage” tradition of learning that we all have been used to. Most of us, in the past, have learned from teachers and gurus, but this is changing rapidly, mainly due to what is called the democratisation of knowledge. Knowledge no longer resides only in the heads of a few select people: it is freely available everywhere. The best part of self-directed learning is that your employees get to learn in the best way – one that fits their knowledge and skill gaps, and their learning preferences.
Self-directed learning is the employee’s choice. When you have a choice in how and what you need to learn, both motivation and engagement are higher – and deeper learning is more likely.

When you are encouraging self-directed learning for the first time, there can be some challenges. Like all skills, some people are better at it than others. Staff also need to develop confidence in picking the right learning path. Some staff, for example, might not assess their current skill levels accurately enough. Consider pairing up people with contrasting abilities – those who might struggle with self-directed learning alongside those who are better at it.

4. Provide access to high quality digital learning resources 

Continuous learning or self-directed learning can’t happen without easy access to high quality digital learning resources. Many organisations are ditching their old, difficult to navigate corporate learning management systems for lean and agile learning experience platforms. 

Staff want access to short, engaging, media-rich content – where it’s quick to find what they need, when they need it. This is the best way to encourage self-directed learning.

5. Invest in coaching and mentoring 

More and more organisations are using coaching as a way to develop critical business skills, including leadership and digital competencies. Many organisations also use it as a way of helping staff with performance and productivity challenges. 

According to the International Coaching Federation,
86% of organisations got a return on their investment from coaching.

Coaching works because of the pace of change in business. The modern worker is overwhelmed and stressed out. They are expected to do more and more, with less and less. Coaching provides a personalised support system, where someone who has faced similar challenges can help fill in the gaps – by asking the right questions. But it’s more than that – coaching can help you overcome hurdles and develop new skills and confidence. With someone at their side, working with their strengths, most employees find coaching invaluable.

Mentoring is different from coaching, although they use some of the same skills. Mentoring is more of a long-term relationship with a specific staff member in your organisation. Coaches work with some short-term goals in mind, perhaps to help someone step up from being a manager to taking on a higher leadership role, or to improve a specific aspect of their performance. Organisations often use mentors to help new employees get up to speed quicker and to make sure that they feel supported.

When it comes to successful digital transformation, or any type of business transformation, all five of these techniques will make it easier for your employees to transform the way they learn and work.


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