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5 Ways Continuous Learning Makes a Powerful Employee Incentive

Improving one's skills can be an effective reward for workers.

Promoting a culture of education and continuous learning within your business can have a profound, measurable effect on both the performance of your team members and the success of your organization as a whole. This extends beyond just boosting revenue; it empowers your employees to hone their skills and bring more to their team. 

Many workers want more of these opportunities for learning, according to data from LinkedIn that found 94 percent would stay at a job longer if the company invested in their career. Conversely, the same employees felt they were held back from learning because they didn't have the time.

In reality, when you provide employees with readily available resources and opportunities to continue learning, they will find a way to take advantage of such offerings. Instead of missing the one workshop held that quarter because of a conflicting meeting, they can access resources on a slow Friday afternoon -- or make it to the next one.

In sum, here are five data-driven ways that continuous learning strengthens an organization.

1. Continuous Learning Creates a Culture of Improvement

Continuous learning creates an environment where areas of weakness aren't criticized or overlooked, but identified and challenged. "We can only develop new strengths by addressing our weaknesses," as Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, chief talent scientist at ManpowerGroup Global, puts it. Continuous learning encourages your team to consistently "focus on what [they] don't know, rather than what [they] do know."  

Make a tool like the online learning website Lynda available to your employees at all times. The value in this is that they can work on their areas of improvement consistently, without needing to attend a workshop or course. If possible, allow employees to set aside time each week or month to focus on learning in the office.

2. Learning Programs Take the Burden Off Your Employees' Shoulders

Employees want to learn, and if you haven't made continuous learning resources accessible, then your team is forced to search for them elsewhere. This is likely already happening within your organization, especially with your technical talent, which has no choice but to keep up with changing technology and advancements.

Data from the Developer Learning Survey found that, "on average, respondents spend seven hours per week of their own time learning new skills necessary to do their jobs," while they spend just two hours per week on formal training opportunities. This is a disparity that continuous learning in the office can correct.

3. Continuous Learning Grows Employees' Strengths, Grows the Business

The team of people working behind-the-scenes (e.g., administrative) are the backbone of your business, and their development as contributors and leaders impacts the organization's ability to succeed. When you provide employees with tools for continuous learning, you develop an office ecosystem of innovation and forward momentum. Indeed, companies that adopt a formal method of training tend to achieve a 28 percent increase in the successful output of employees, based on a Sales Enablement Organization Study from CSO Insights. 

The more employees grow in their levels of expertise, the more qualified they'll be to address areas of weakness, challenge failures, meet objectives and boost the bottom line. 

4. Skills Training Helps You Retain Top Talent

Millennials will make up 75 percent of the workforce by 2025, and the opportunity to learn and progress is one of the most important aspects of your employer brand to these workers, according to a Global Human Capital Trends Survey. If you're not providing continuous learning, you risk losing these valuable employees, who say they're "likely to leave because they are not learning fast enough," according to study data. 

Use continuous learning to encourage your high achievers to keep improving, for their career and the business. Make this a companywide initiative, and you might find some of your best employees stick around a lot longer

5. Learning Opportunities Allow You to Stay Relevant Within Your Industry

Few industries are static -- a business is an active organism that fluctuates in response to customer demands, technology innovations and economic shifts, and most industries are responding to these rapidly evolving changes. As such, you can no longer look past the need for your workforce to be growing and adapting to these changes as well.

A great example comes from Pat Wadors, senior vice president of global talent organization at LinkedIn. The company addressed an SEO traffic decline with a required course on SEO practices that resulted in a 75 percent traffic boost. 

"Preparing people for change isn't only the job of universities," says Wadors. "Leaders in today's organizations now have to figure out the best ways to identify, reward and motivate top agile talent while supporting the constant need to learn. To atrophy is to lose in the market."

Offer Continuous Employee Learning

The importance of continuous learning in your business cannot be overstated. Not only does this help to educate your staff on how to perform and achieve at higher standards, but it also empowers them with the confidence to excel in all facets of their position. In the end, this benefits you, as the employer, because the more productive and efficient your team is, the more your organization will thrive, succeed and expand. 

Jessica Thiefels is an entrepreneur and founder/CEO of Jessica Thiefels Consulting. She's been writing for more than 10 years and has been featured in top publications like Forbes and Fast Company. She also writes for Business Insider, Virgin, Glassdoor and more. Follow her on Twitter @JThiefels and connect on LinkedIn.