Most of us have had jobs where employee training meant watching a film in the breakroom or, worse, being sent a link to a training module the week before work starts.
That’s not what we’re talking about here. It’s the opposite, in fact.
For employees, the opportunity to learn a new skill and develop as a professional is golden. Those opportunities reinforce an employee’s sense of belonging within the organization and illuminate new career paths. In return, those folks are able to contribute more to the company’s success.
And inside of that cycle are rewards and other incentives that, ideally, make employee development an ongoing process.
Below, we will explore the ways employee development and total reward share a mutually reinforcing bond.
Employee Learning and Development Supports Retention
First, let’s make a distinction between training and development. Claire Hastwell at Great Place To Work has a nice explanation of the difference:
- “Training is job-specific. It is ensuring an employee has the correct tools and learns the correct skills to complete their tasks. It is immediate and measured in short-term results.
- “Development is about employee growth. It is long-term and more behavioral-focused.”
When companies invest in learning and development, their employees reward them with loyalty. In fact, opportunities to learn and develop could be a stronger retention tactic than raises and salary bumps.
In a study from the mid-2010s, Kellogg School of Management researchers Rongzhu Ke, Jin Li, and Michael Powell found “[p]romotion really is the most effective way to motivate workers.”
This taps into a couple of dynamics. First, there is the desire among many workers to move up into a higher pay grade, as the authors note. This keeps employees up and down the career ladder motivated to stay with an employer.
Second, there’s also the desire for recognition, as the team at the British Council writes. “Encouraging a culture of recognition combined with the right L&D opportunities can help ground employees. And be a practical talent retention strategy.”
The chance to grow and to feel appreciated makes employee development so rewarding.
And, of course, this comes with the expectation that a more skilled employee will eventually find their way into a job with more responsibilities and higher pay.
Rewards That Encourage Employee Learning and Development
For most of us, the above dynamic of development and reward is familiar. What’s perhaps less familiar is the notion that companies should pay people and give them plenty of time to pursue their own professional development. That’s what makes the development-retention dynamic work.
Here are three rewards companies can offer to encourage employee development:
A Learning and Development Stipend
This is a straightforward benefit: Just give your employees a certain amount of money above their salary that they can put toward courses or some other type of learning.
“Although different companies and organizations might have specific stipend guidelines, all stipends follow a similar format: an employee is offered a sum of money they can voluntarily apply every month, year, or quarter toward approved learning expenses,” Spyros Tsoukalas at GrowthMentor writes.
Here are a few examples of companies already doing this:
- Buffer. In 2017, Buffer started giving employees a $20-per-month learning stipend.
- Airtable. Airtable creates custom learning journeys for their employees that come with one-on-one coaching and connections to in-house mentors. (More on that idea below.)
- BetterUp. BetterUp gives employees $1,000 annually to spend on learning and development.
- Zuora. Zuora gives its employees a certain amount of cash every year to spend on courses, training, conferences or any other type of learning.
Give People Time to Learn on the Job
“A recent LinkedIn report showed that the number one reason employees say they are not engaging in workplace learning is because they don’t have the time,” Learnerbly CEO Rajeeb Dey writes. “So why not give them time as a benefit?”
This is similar to Google’s old 20 Percent Rule or 3M’s current 15% Culture. Both companies encouraged employees to set aside most or all of a working day each week to pursue innovations and passion projects. Famously, that’s how Gmail was born.
If you can carve out four or eight hours each workweek for your employees to challenge themselves, learn a skill or even tinker with a project, you set yourself up to retain talented people for longer.
Connect Employees With Mentors
Having a trusted person to talk to during work hours about professional development is so important.
And the mentor-mentee relationship is a reciprocal one. “By introducing a mentoring program whereby colleagues can help mentor fellow colleagues, it allows employees to develop skills by learning from more experienced colleagues and giving others a chance to teach and provide guidance and mentorship to others,” Nadia Ponomareva at Horizons writes.
Building a mentor network from scratch can be daunting, but the team at Employment Hero has a helpful five-step guide for doing this.
Recognize Employees for Their Skills Development
Remember that a major motivator for employees is recognition. People want their employers to acknowledge the work they’ve put into their professional development.
And managers want to give kudos to their team members. “Although most great managers want to recognize their people, the challenge, which has only been made more difficult in the hybrid world, is finding meaningful things to recognize them for,” employee appreciation professional Christopher Littlefield writes at the Harvard Business Review.
Littlefield’s concept of reflective recognition is worth the read, but another way managers can solve the “I don’t know what to recognize this person for” problem is by praising an employee’s ongoing learning and development.
Marketer Jacqueline Holmes shares some of the best ways employers can do this:
- By overseeing training and providing monetary rewards to employees who achieve a certain level of success.
- By giving out certificates, badges and other tangible signs of recognition.
- By implementing recognition software such as Awardco or HeyTaco. Those platforms give managers and coworkers a way to shout out someone’s good work.
From an HR and payroll perspective, though, this can sound like unwanted complexity. That’s one reason we built uFlexReward. Our solution gives leaders, employees, and administrators better visibility into employee reward data.
To learn more about how our platform can simplify total reward management, request a demo today.
Images used under license from Shutterstock.com.