How to Use Online Learning to Grow Employee Engagement
Ongoing education opportunities can improve employee satisfaction and wellbeing.
One of the top concerns for many businesses lies in finding and retaining talented employees. A qualified individual who leaves one company for another represents a huge loss for a business, both in terms of brain drain and in the time and resources it will take to find and train a replacement. Because of this, many businesses have become increasingly focused on building employee engagement as a means of preventing the loss of these talented individuals.
Engaged employees find it easier to focus on their job. They waste less time at work, and report less stress and higher satisfaction. All of this affects their mental health, too, as they are less likely to suffer from burnout.
Recognizing this, businesses have invested millions of dollars in initiatives to build engagement, from company retreats to team-building exercises and more. Yet one of the most effective ways to grow engagement comes from a much simpler source: ongoing education. As it turns out, many employees are attracted to companies that help them achieve their learning goals.
1. Talk to your team about what learning opportunities they would find most valuable.
First and foremost, talk with your employees about the learning opportunities they would be most excited by. It’s hard to grow engagement if the online learning courses you’re offering aren’t ones your team is interested in.
Having this conversation is also a way to learn more about your team’s self-perceived strengths and weaknesses. Finding an employee who is keen to take leadership courses can help you discover the type of person you might like to move into a management role.
2. Make time for your employees to pursue ongoing education.
It’s one thing to offer education courses, but this won’t do your business any good if your employees don’t have time to take them. Expecting them to take courses outside of work hours is a sure way to turn a perk into an obligation.
Instead, think about offering a certain number of paid hours for ongoing education in any given period. Then your employees can work out how best to use them. Maybe it makes sense for them to invest a couple hours every week into an online course, or perhaps they want to save that time for a multi-day intensive seminar. Letting them make that decision on their own will help them achieve their goals.
3. Create support materials to improve employee training.
Onboarding training materials are one of the best investments an organization can make in their employee education initiatives. However, these are often viewed as “once and done” programs that new hires take when they first join an organization and never see thereafter.
The problem is, new hires are likely to have retained only a portion of what they saw in their first training course. There’s only so much a new employee can learn from a course before they have to put it to practice, and they are bound to forget some of that information after a few months if they haven’t had a chance to use it on the job yet.
As such, organizations might be better-served if they thought of their onboarding training in stages, with new employees receiving the next stage in their training after they’ve had a few months to master the basics. Offering these courses through an online platform means they are also available for employees to review at any time, should they feel the need to do so.
4. Encourage employees to create and share their own courses.
Knowledge sharing offers huge benefits for companies and employees alike. Many employees will jump at the chance to share something about their expertise, especially if their audience is eager to learn what they have to offer. Meanwhile, organizations gain a workforce with a more holistic understanding of the business.
Teaching is also a form of mastery. When a senior employee creates a course to help junior employees grow professionally, they master their own subject in the process. And as an additional benefit, if that employee leaves the organization for another, they leave behind a record of their expertise that can help train their replacement.
5. Be open to A-to-C learning ideas.
In general, learning initiatives should be related to an organization’s business goals. But sometimes it’s difficult to draw an A-to-B connection from a program and its relevance. It is clear to see how an employee taking a leadership course would benefit a business, but what about a course in Italian or improv comedy? These are what might be considered A-to-C connections. There may be some relevance, but it’s not immediately apparent.
For instance, many large corporations recognize the positive effect that regular exercise has on the health—both physically and mentally—on their employees, and have created programs to support and encourage workers who want to fit exercise into their daily schedule. This type of perk can be a draw for employees who want to work for a business that will support their health goals, but it can also be a smart financial choice for the business if the workforce is healthier and more productive as a result.
The same can be said of many learning opportunities. Improv comedy may have nothing to do with your business on the surface, but in practice it can build confidence, nurture creativity, and even grow teamwork and communication skills. You don’t need to give every idea the green light, but it’s a good idea to be open to the possibilities.
Online learning is a low-cost way to build employee engagement and satisfaction.
From a business perspective, it is clear that building employee engagement should be a top objective for any company. Engaged and happy employees are more productive and less likely to leave your organization for another. The costs of low productivity and employee churn will slowly drive any business into the ground.
On the other hand, giving employees the support to improve their skillset and the resources in both time and budget to do so are a relatively low-cost investment with the potential for huge returns. More importantly, it is an investment you are making in your employees, which is in itself a vote of confidence that is unlikely to go unnoticed. If you show your employees that you believe in their excellence and are willing to help them achieve it, few of them will choose to take their skills somewhere else.