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Dan Tesnjak


Head of EMEA

Read more from Dan Tesnjak

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Growth outside climbing the vertical career ladder

Modern careers are no longer ladders. People grow in all directions and learning cultures must now reflect this.

There was a time, not so long ago, where successful workforce careers were seen as strictly linear. Employees were expected to climb the “career ladder”, from an entry-level position to a senior role, then to the manager, etc checking off an established set of accomplishments along the way.

Today, that structure has changed and rightly so moving to an increased focus on the importance of personal and well-rounded growth. Modern careers are no longer ladders people grow in all directions, not just by climbing a vertical career ladder. This is more so the case in companies with a positive learning culture, as shown in the recent report How the workforce learns.

Employee growth is ultimately the biggest driver of organizational growth and innovation

Growth extends beyond promotions

While promotions matter in a positive learning culture, they’re not the only – or even the most important – kind of mobility for employees. In positive learning cultures, professional growth is recognized more continuously than just promotions every few years. Lateral moves, stretch assignments, and mentorships all provide crucial opportunities for individual development as well as workforce agility.

How the Workforce Learns data shows that opportunities to move laterally or work on collaborative stretch assignments are just as important and boost retention. Promoters are 235% more likely to switch to a new function in their organization, 101% more likely to work on temporary projects and 189% more likely to work with a mentor or coach; ensuring all of their skills are used to their full potential.

Employee growth is ultimately the biggest driver of organizational growth and innovation, and the cost is higher than ever for companies that neglect the growth of their internal talent with the Great Resignation going on, threatening costly workforce turnovers that could devastate businesses large and small. 

The benefits of offering growth opportunities

Companies need to meet their employees where they are with dynamic, democratized, and data-driven growth opportunities, or they will not only risk their bottom line, but they will handicap their best talent as well.

What better way to improve the employee experience and worker retention, than by offering a variety of growth opportunities, in a positive learning culture, allowing both your company and employees to grow together? 

The benefits are important and numerous: employee development, wellbeing, loyalty, building a dexterous well-rounded workforce who can more easily shift into alternative roles. Not to mention building a better bank of skills to create a stronger, more resilient, innovative workforce, while improving teamwork and the overall company culture and relationships.

Employees are learning on their own, whatever they want, every day.

The way of learning is less linear than ever before

Just as career paths are becoming less linear, so, too, are the ways employees learn and develop new skills. Today, career development is complex, occurring across multiple mediums inside and outside of the workplace. It’s driven as much by employee passions and interests as it is by the parameters of their job description. 

Employees are learning on their own, whatever they want, every day. They can find the content they need through articles, books, videos, podcasts and more. It’s worth noting that, in a positive learning culture, people are more engaged with all three types of learning experiences in the 70|20|10 model: experiential, interactive, and instructional.

Call to action for leaders: find ways to connect people to each other and opportunities to practice as well as good learning content. 

Support your employees’ desire to grow through a positive learning culture

L&D leaders have a bigger opportunity than ever to improve the employee experience and worker retention by implementing a positive learning culture. But until now, learning leaders have struggled to even define learning culture, let alone build or improve one.

To create a positive learning culture, L&D teams need to offer opportunities to work with other teams, take on temporary internal gigs, and more.

Your people own their careers now, and that changes everything. Promotions matter, but they’re not the only kind of mobility. What employees need from their managers and your learning team are the support and resources to grow in all directions. That could look like a mentorship or working on a temporary project on another team. In order to do this, there need to be extended opportunities to practice, apply, and stretch skills.

Understand the learning journey to support your peoples' career growth

Learning no longer stops after the ‘learning event’ is over. People grow in all directions, so offer experiential learning for them to practice, apply and stretch their skills. It’s likely that many of these opportunities already exist in your organization, like secondments or volunteering. Offering a range of experiential learning opportunities will also reinforce new skills. 

Overall, constructing a positive learning culture based on guidance, diverse experiences, feedback, and active development opportunities is the key to not only keeping up with the needs of your business but staying ahead with a skill-based, agile development strategy.

As we look towards 2022 and the many changes on the horizon, learning and employee growth will play an ever more vital role in helping organizations prepare and adapt. 

Understanding how your people are learning today and offering them the opportunities to grow in all directions will help you better support them tomorrow.

Like this topic? Read Upskilling: why the UK needs a capabilities revolution.

Author Profile Picture
Dan Tesnjak

Head of EMEA

Read more from Dan Tesnjak

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