Ongoing employee development and education has been an important part of Afghan Wireless Communications Company’s business philosophy for a number of years, but not all companies are so committed to helping their employees learn and grow. Unfortunately, far too many companies approach the idea of employee development and training reluctantly, if at all. This hesitation typically springs from one or more of the following myths and misconceptions about employee learning.
Myth #1: Employees don’t have time for learning programs, since they’re too busy working.
Lack of time is frequently cited by employers as one of the biggest obstacles to corporate learning—the rationale being that employees are already so busy with their jobs that they don’t have time for anything else. But, as always, the truth is a bit more complicated. The fact is that most workers, from entry-level employees to C-suite executives, greatly benefit when they can get away from the constant bombardment of day-to-day demands and have time to think about their work and experiment with new ideas. It’s also during these “rest periods” that people tend to learn the most. The value of taking a break from daily work in order to focus on learning is perhaps hard to quantify, but it is clearly very important.
In addition, according to a 2016 survey on skill-building in the workforce, employees spend an average of just 37 minutes per week on training provided by their employers, but they devoted an additional 3.3 hours per week to learning independently. This indicates that employees are both ready and willing to put time into learning if they feel it has personal value and will enhance their professional lives.
Myth #2: High-potential employees will take their new skills elsewhere as soon as they’ve finished training.
The fear of losing high-potential employees after offering them learning experiences is a common one. However, many employers might be surprised to learn that employees are more likely to leave if they do not have the opportunity to experiment with new learning and new ideas. Employees are far more engaged when they have chances to practice, to innovate, and to grow, so if employers are committed to creating a working environment where learning is truly valued, that’s an important step in promoting employee retention.
Myth #3: Theoretical learning opportunities have no value, because the best learning takes place on the job.
Some employers question the benefit of providing their employees with formal learning opportunities when, in their opinion, learning on the job is the best way. However, learning is most effective when it encompasses both theoretical lessons and real-world experience. It’s true that purely theoretical learning will usually cause employees to lose interest, but theoretical learning that is readily applicable to employees’ day-to-day challenges has enormous value. It allows learners to deepen their understanding of their job or their industry, in order to be able to apply evidence-based theories to their work.
For instance, an example of an effective theoretical learning initiative involves tackling the subject of personal, unconscious bias in decision-making at work. It would be difficult to learn about this topic purely “on the job,” but learning about it in a theoretical context gives participants practical takeaways that they can use to inform their future decisions.
Myth #4: Having one or two learning initiatives is good enough.
A true culture of workplace learning requires more than just one or two classes for employees every now and then. An organization needs to embed a value for learning within the very core of its operations; if a company doesn’t demonstrate through all of its actions that it believes learning to be important, employees won’t be fooled by the gesture of offering an occasional training session. Executives who are wondering whether there are real benefits to fostering a culture of workplace learning need look no further for proof than Silicon Valley, where successful companies are on the edge of learning all the time, and that continuous learning process is what drives their remarkable innovation.
Myth #5: Workplace learning initiatives are too expensive.
Cost is always a concern for managers when it comes to the question of employee training. But it’s important for employers to remember two things. One is that while employee education is sometimes expensive, it doesn’t necessarily have to be, especially given that less expensive options like online courses or self-service learning modules are readily available today.
The second thing to remember is that not investing in employee education and development comes with its own cost—specifically, the cost of higher employee turnover due to reduced job engagement. Employees who feel that their jobs are not providing sufficient opportunities for skills development and growth are more likely to leave, and employers will therefore spend much more on recruiting and training replacements than they would have on education programs.