This learning hack will leave your competition in the dust

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As Benjamin Franklin once said: “An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.” This is something truly reflected in the conscientiousness of McGill University.

As a global leader in academic excellence, McGill has long enjoyed a rich and deservedly esteemed reputation. With students flocking to the campus from over 150 different countries, McGill is as diverse as it is pioneering – wholly committed to educating the future CEOs of tomorrow.

HRD caught up with Eric Saine, executive director at McGill’s Executive Institute, to uncover what exciting developments are going down at the University – and ask why HR needs to invest more in ‘continuous learning’.

“The McGill Executive Institute is witnessing unprecedented growth in the number of organizations seeking to partner with us for employee learning and development,” explained Saine.

“What this points to is that companies are making ‘lifelong learning’ a key strategic priority. Whilst it used to be that people became educated in their main area of expertise early in life, from 25 for example, this is no longer the case.

Essentially, in the past, people would engage in surface level workshops at various points throughout their career to widen their knowledge. Now, many are jumping back into deep learning journeys at two or three stages in life.”

Saine told HRD that this path takes many forms. For instance, a student could attain an Engineering degree in their 20s, go on to do an EMBA in their 30s before returning to education once again in their 50s to complete a degree in Education. This continuous learning system is one which benefits both the person on the course and the organization they eventually go on to lead.

So, why are people choosing to invest in continuous learning as an employment skill? Saine believes that the reasoning is three-fold.

“Firstly, thanks to the rapid changes in technology, competition and overall complexity in the way work is done today, knowledge is becoming outdated more quickly than before,” he told HRD.

“This means that people need upskilling or reskilling just to keep pace and remain relevant in their careers. Lifelong learning is needed for employability and competitiveness because life, in many ways, goes through cycles of renewal. We are first hit with disruptive technologies and modes of working. We then come together to figure out how to ‘tame’ it, reshape our value proposition, and create efficiency. Finally, what starts as novelty morphs into a commoditized approach.”

The second reason for this commitment to continuous learning comes from an employer brand perspective. Any potential new hire will be quick to snap up a role which offers the opportunity to learn new skills and attend courses which could lead to further promotions.

“We often hear people, especially millennials, mentioning that a key reason they choose to join a company is a clear indication that they will have opportunities to learn and grow on the job,” added Saine.

Finally, there’s no denying that continuous learning is a key component of improving employee engagement – something which is often exacerbated by the current talent shortage.

“In order for organizations to retain top tier talent, the pressure is on organizations to fully understand who the learners are, define their wants and needs, and get to know the context they work in,” added Saine. “Defining the ‘what’s in it for me’ message has never been more important. Forward-thinking organizations are insisting on world-class and learner-focused corporate training experiences for their workforce.”

And Saine couldn’t be more correct. In today’s candidate-centric world, where skilled employees have the opportunity to jump roles every year or so, companies need to make more of an effort when it comes to their onboarding packages.

But if you’re not swayed by the sheer culture value that programs like this add – consider an ROI perspective instead.

According to a study from ATD, businesses which invest in comprehensive training programs enjoy a 218% higher income per employee than those who opt out. Food for thought, no?

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