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Encouraging workplace learning and development with rewards.

If you want your company to thrive in 2020 and beyond, ongoing learning and development is somewhat of a no-brainer. Just ask the HR directors over at Microsoft, Vodacom, Accenture, Tata Consultancy Services and Unilever. These heavy hitters took the top five spots in the lineup for the top employers in South Africa for 2020, based on a variety of KPIs that included learning and development, talent strategy, workforce planning and more. Suffice it to say, they know what it takes to attract and retain top talent and they’re really good at doing so.

The business benefits of ongoing learning and development

In the HR world, we understand that training is a vital component of a nimble workforce. It’s the thing that sets forward-thinking teams apart from the folks who will end up with the silver and bronze ribbons.

However, it can be challenging to get employees excited about the notion of learning. This rings true in industries that require compulsory training for financial, insurance or health and safety reasons, as well as those that employ workforces who have to keep up with necessary systems and software. The same challenges apply if regular learning forms part of your strategy to remain competitive and relevant at the hand of innovative new tools. Therein lies the rub.

However, the benefits of ongoing learning and development are too impressive to ignore. These include:

  • Boosted employee performance and productivity. Properly trained employees are able to do their jobs more effectively, it’s as simple as that. Training that gives an employee a better understanding of their responsibilities and builds their confidence enhances their overall performance, which in turn has a direct impact on the company’s bottom line.
  • Improved workforce satisfaction. A business that invests in training for their personnel shows them that they’re valued. When employees feel challenged and appreciated at work, they are more satisfied in their roles, which leads to improved morale overall.
  • A level playing field. Every employee has weaknesses. By identifying these weaknesses and providing training or mentoring opportunities to address them, a competent managerial team brings all of their employees to the same high performance level so co-workers can work in tandem to reach their goals.
  • Supercharged innovation and creativity. New skills and ideas breed innovation and creativity.
  • Great employee retention. Staff members who feel valued are far less likely to jump ship or seek greener pastures than those who feel unsupported and unchallenged in their work.

So, what is a forward-thinking HR director to do if they wish their team to reap the many benefits of ongoing learning in a way that will bring employees on board all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed? The answer lies in employee rewards.

Practical ways to use rewards to promote learning in 2020 and beyond

Rewards are effective at motivating learning and development for a number of reasons. For one thing, the human brain keeps tabs on our well being according to five threat and reward domains that include status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness and fairness (or SCARF, for short). When we feel important in relation to others, can predict what lies ahead, have a sense of control over events that affect us, feel connected and safe with our group, and experience exchanges within the group as fair and equal, the age-old coding in our amygdala and frontal cortex plays along to make us open to new experiences.

As such, it only makes sense that reward and recognition would be helpful when it comes to promoting ongoing learning in the workplace. However, not all reward programs are created equal. If you want your employee recognition and reward efforts to be effective in terms of creating an environment of ongoing learning and development, it pays to be strategic about it. Here are a few practical strategies that will lay the groundwork for effective HR management in this regard:

  • Make employee development a part of your strategic planning. Employee recognition and reward is most effective when it aligns with your company’s purpose. As such, employee development should be incorporated in strategic planning so HR initiatives work in alignment with overall company objectives. Define what the business wants to achieve and incorporate employee learning and growth programs that will help to achieve these goals.
  • Leverage both financial and intrinsic rewards. A combination of financial and intrinsic rewards are very effective at incentivising a workforce. So take care to balance merchandise, retail cards, digital vouchers, experiences, travel and services, with intrinsic factors like feeling valued and a sense of achievement.
  • Position education as a reward in itself. Positioning training as a reward for top performers, instead of a compulsory task, turns it into a carrot rather than a stick. After all, free training can open up a lot of work opportunities for your staff members within your organisation.
  • Empower and demonstrate trust whenever possible. The best way to promote the use of newly acquired skills is to give individual team members the opportunity to lead and direct their work, when appropriate. Moving beyond the confines of their job description and established skills allows employees to grow by moving outside their comfort zone and gaining confidence in their new skills.

So there you have it – a quick look at why targeted rewards are so effective at fostering an environment of ongoing learning and development. If you would like to find out more about using recognition and reward to smooth the way for compulsory and necessary workplace training, feel free to get in touch with the GET Rewards team.

As a single-source supplier, we take great pride in providing a comprehensive range of rewards through cost-effective channels to boost learning and development from grassroots level up.


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