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5 ways workplace education transforms leadership

February 1, 2021 at 9:15 AM

iStock-1191815038In economically uncertain times, your company may be looking for new approaches to leadership development so you can retain and promote valuable talent. Internally promoting leadership can save money in addition to generating gains in many areas of your company from training and development to career advancement.

Workplace education is a great way to cultivate the leadership potential of your employees. According to our recent survey of over 600 organizations in various industries, 80% of respondents agreed that workplace education helps develop leaders from within their organization.1 Read more about five powerful reasons your company should invest in workplace education.

1. Equity

Workplace education is one of the best ways to remove barriers created by educational inequalities. For example, low socioeconomic status is correlated with literacy gaps, lower educational achievement, higher dropout rates, and less access to resources for college and career preparation.2 Workplace education can begin to address these inequalities by helping to ensure that everyone has access to the same knowledge, creating more equal opportunities for success regardless of individual background.

Employees who come from diverse ethnic, racial, and gender backgrounds are even more likely to be impacted by educational and social inequalities. However, these populations have many intrinsic traits that are desired in a leader: resiliency, problem-solving skills, and emotional intelligence, to name a few. Your company can become a more welcoming place for those of diverse backgrounds by providing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) education. With an informed perspective on equity, leaders in your organization can be mindful about their approaches to hiring, training, mentoring, and promotion.

2. Advancement

To grow in their roles, leaders with high-level potential often need higher education. A bachelor’s in business, for example, can lead to entry-level or mid-level management positions in many industries. However, a master’s degree in business (such as an MBA) is required for executive leadership roles in finance, global business, or health care administration. Many companies who are interested in professional development for leadership offer full or partial financial aid packages.3 Instead of hiring qualified leaders outright, which is more expensive, these organizations choose to train upper-level leaders through partnerships with degree-granting institutions.

Encouraging your employees to earn graduate degrees isn’t the only way to help aspiring leaders. Your company could consider in-house development such as panel discussions, informational interviews with brand executives, or informal talks where colleagues talk about their areas of expertise.

Workplace education creates space for career advancers. Your company should make educational events and opportunities transparent so that talented employees can take the initiative to grow and develop. Employees who are interested in improving their skills and continuing with their education are usually ideal candidates for advanced leadership roles.3 Paying attention to the individual motivations of your employees is a good way to identify who has leadership potential.

3. Innovation

Your company can stay on the cutting edge by teaching your employees new skills, which is known as upskilling. This type of workplace education can happen through professional development workshops, seminars, supervised practice, and off-site experiences, and new skills are often immediately relevant to employees. Everyone on the team benefits from upskilling, but especially leaders, who are responsible for helping their teams adapt quickly to changing industry trends and daily operations.

Cross-training is another way to encourage innovation among your leadership, and it’s a solution that benefits everyone. When an employee is cross-trained, they can perform the functions of more than one job in the organization. In scenarios where someone is unexpectedly out, another team member can temporarily fulfill the role’s obligations with minimal disruption to daily activities. Plus, your staff gets to expand their skill sets and boost their engagement.

To make the most out of upskilling, you should build it into your organization’s overall framework.4 In other words, upskilling is not only a goal but also a commitment of time, effort, and resources. It’s worth the investment because upskilling allows your brand to stay relevant in today’s quickly changing marketplaces and sets your company up for long-term success in the future.

4. Retention

In general, employees stay where they feel a sense of purpose and belonging. Companies who commit to their employees’ skills development have a better chance of retention, in addition to improved employee morale and job satisfaction.3 By working to meet the needs of leaders who wish to advance their career, workplace education initiatives demonstrate respect and appreciation for employees and encourage them to continue delivering their best performance.

However, the needs of a diverse, multitalented workforce can sometimes be challenging to foresee. You’ll need to have conversations with each employee to identify their skills gaps, talk about their career goals, and look at ways that your company can help them get the necessary skills to reach their potential. Part of your company’s approach to education can include frequent, informal check-ins with leadership and digital self-assessments/reflections. Once you’ve established goals, you can work with your employees to design a development plan that fits.

5. Returns

Many studies have found that investing in workplace education increases a company’s financial returns. For example, the health services organization Cigna saw a 129% return on investment on their tuition assistance program.1 By boosting workplace education initiatives, your company could experience similar returns in addition to the money saved from internal promotion and increased retention.

Learn more about ways to deliver meaningful workplace education and set up your organization for long-term success.

Check out our infographic

Explore how Wiley Beyond can help you invest in successful workplace education by checking out our “Education for impact” infographic or visiting our Resources page for more materials.

  1. Wiley Beyond Education for Impact Infographic
  2. https://www.apa.org/pi/ses/resources/publications/education#:~:text=Education%20and%20Socioeconomic%20Status%20Socioeconomic%20status%20%28SES%29%20encompasses,subjective%20perceptions%20of%20social%20status%20and%20social%20class.
  3. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/benefits-continuing-education-everyone-ian-cohen/
  4. https://www.hrci.org/community/blogs-and-announcements/hr-leads-business-blog/hr-leads-business/2020/01/24/the-benefits-of-upskilling
Natasha DeJesus

Written by Natasha DeJesus

Natasha DeJesus is a Global DE&I Board Member at Wiley and Co-Chairs the Wiley Education Services DE&I Business Council. She is responsible for driving the DE&I enterprise strategy and is committed to fostering an inclusive workplace environment that enables colleagues to thrive and reach their fullest potential. Natasha is a Bronx, NY native and an alumnus of Colorado State University where she received her MS in Organizational Leadership.