Today, we want to look at why learning pathways can make or break your business. Finding employees with the right skills is a struggle for many businesses, but manufacturing and information technology appear to be struggling the most according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
These industries are facing a massive skills gap, resulting in millions of unfilled jobs. The solution seems obvious at first glance – reform education to teach people the skills they’ll actually need in the workforce. However, education reforms are just one part of the solution.
Educational institutes can’t close the skills gap on their own. Even if they could, employers don’t have the time to wait for changes to take effect. They need educated, qualified employees now. Rather than waiting years or decades, employers can take matters into their own hands by building learning pathways for adults working within their organisations.
What is a learning pathway?
Just as an employee can chart a career pathway, for example moving from a junior employee through to mid and then senior leadership roles, they should also be able to see a clear path from their current level of knowledge to the education or certification necessary to qualify for those higher roles they want to apply for.
A learning pathway complements your employee development program by identifying which training and education the employee should pursue. Then it gives that employee solutions for accessing those opportunities. This might be a marketer who needs to upskill in Google Analytics or a finance assistant who needs to take their CFA exams… whatever the case may be, it’s your duty as an employer to help them get there.
Learning pathways should be tailored to each individual, but that doesn’t mean you have to create a perfectly unique pathway for each employee. What it does mean is you should adjust pre-existing pathways to make them as efficient as possible. Here’s how you do that…
How to create learning pathways
Employees are happier when they know that there’s capacity within the business for them to advance.
💡Did you know, the most common reason employees give for leaving a job is for career growth opportunities according to Gallup’s State of the American Workforce survey.
That same survey found that Millennials are more likely than previous generations to value a job that accelerates their professional and career development. With Millenials forecast to make up 75% of the global workforce by 2025, it’s more important than ever to make sure you have built a clear and concise learning pathway for your employees.
By establishing clear learning pathways, you’re helping to retain valuable talent. At the same time, your business benefits by helping each employee use all their talents and skills in service to your company grow bigger and better. For every employee in your company no matter what the position, you should map out a learning pathway that helps that individual advance to a higher paying position and a position with more responsibility.
A learning pathway should clearly show each individual:
- Where they currently sit in the business organisational chart
- Exactly what the promotional pathway looks like
- Identifies which supplies e.g. skills, certifications or knowledge that employee would need to follow for that pathway
- Tells your employee exactly where to find those supplies and how to achieve them
Write these down and make sure employees have easy access to them. Make them part of performance reviews and any coaching/one-on-one meetings.
Next step, look for courses, organisations, or training partners that can provide employees with what they need to advance. If it’s not something they can do on their own.
What to look for in a training partner or program
Help your employees balance work and training by building efficient learning pathways. In place of four-year degrees or intensive boot camps, look for flexible online options, certifications and micro-learning opportunities.
This doesn’t work for everyone, but some employees might like to have a more flexible option that they can achieve whilst still working full time. However, some might like the extensive crash courses… make sure you keep an open dialogue with your employee to find out what suits them the best.
While learning pathways look different for different industries, they all need to partner with programs and organisations that meet certain key requirements. To be most effective your learning solutions need to be flexible, focused, incremental, accessible and affordable.
Top 4 tips for effective learning pathways
1. Be Flexible
You’ll need your employees to continue doing their current job while pursuing the next opportunity. So look for training and development opportunities that they can do at their own pace and on their schedule.
2. Be Focused
While learning is always valuable, your learning pathway should be focused on specific outcomes. Make sure that employees are learning exactly what they need to know and not getting distracted by side-topics. For example, a program in front line supervisory skills is quicker and more immediately applicable than an associate’s degree in organisational leadership.
3. Make Learning Pathways Accessible
Courses that can be accessed through a mobile-friendly online portal are particularly valuable because employees can train wherever they are. Whether they’re on a work computer, on their tablet after the kids go to bed, or on their phone while riding the bus to work.
In addition to the courses themselves, help and support should also be easily accessible.
4. Make it Affordable
Finances can present a serious barrier for even the most driven employees. Choose an education partner that offers affordable pricing for your employees.
If possible, provide them with tuition assistance options. Tuition assistance shows employees that your company is serious about supporting their advancement. It makes them more engaged, more loyal, and happier overall. At the same time, it ensures that you have a steady stream of qualified employees to fill open positions.
Building a learning pathway for your employees is just one of the ways to make sure you’ve got an amazing company culture. For more top tips on making your business a great place to work, download our company culture bundle below.