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Three ways your time-poor startup can ease its learning headache

Written by Rajeeb Dey on Wednesday, 21 March 2018. Posted in Engagement, People

The workplace is changing but on-the-job learning remains crucial to employee satisfaction and business success – the question is: how should you get the message across?

Three ways your time-poor startup can ease its learning headache

Half of the jobs we see today won’t exist by 2025 as the fourth industrial revolution gears up to transform the world of work with automation and data exchange. At the World Economic Forum earlier this year, there was talk of ‘continuous uptraining’ to cope with this shake-up: a system that allows every employee to devote significant time every week, month or year to acquiring fresh skills.

In reality, employee development falls short and research has repeatedly shown that more needs to be done to brush up workforce skills. LinkedIn and Capgemini revealed last year that 42% of employees describe their organisation’s training as useless and boring.

This lack of worthwhile learning is a particular headache for startups, as its employees often get thrown into the deep end and sit across multiple roles. Whilst startups can be the most progressive of businesses in a myriad of ways, many can also ignore training needs as things move too fast, leaving people to figure it out for themselves. As the business grows, the first employees get pushed up the ranks, often without management training.

This process is a ticking time-bomb for business growth and culture. But what can time-poor startup founders and management do to tackle their learning problem in a simple and cost-effective way?

Empower your employees with choice

Don’t waste your time on enforced training, as people learn better when they have the power to choose what and how they learn. Employees at all levels expect self-directed and dynamic learning opportunities from their employers. When learning is self-directed, people put it into practice quicker and are less likely to forget what they learned. Personal learning budgets can be a great way of supporting this and many startups champion them as a company perk. 

Avoid information overload by guiding employees

Startup employees often turn to the internet or Google search to deal with issues; 70% of workers use the web as a go-to source of information about their jobs. While it’s important to let employees choose, people can’t make progress when overwhelmed with too much choice. Don’t blindly allocate the aforementioned personal learning budgets, as thanks to little quality control in the learning industry, it’s nearly impossible to know employees are putting your money in the right place. Instead, guide your employees with ideas as to where they can invest their learning budgets, depending on what they are trying to get out of it. 


Build a culture of learning

Set aside regular time slots to encourage learning and sharing with ‘lunch and learns’, whereby a team member presents on a topic of interest or expertise or you invite an external speaker. You could do a free skills-exchange with other startups by, for example, putting your CTO forward to do a talk about the latest technology in exchange for another company’s head of design briefing your team about user experience and design. People can then share what they’ve learnt in weekly company meetings with a retrospective session or ‘company stand up’. 

About the Author

Rajeeb Dey

Rajeeb Dey

Not every entrepreneur has been in cahoots with the prime minister but Startup Britain, the national entrepreneurship campaign Rajeeb Dey founded, was endorsed by David Cameron in 2011. Dey is also passionate about education and employment having founded Learnerbly, the workplace learning platform, and Enternships, the graduate jobs service, while he champions social enterprise through UnLtd.

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