By H. E. James, MBA
Many an organization hires for skill and education, but once the papers have been signed, continuing education is forgotten, unless we’re talking about the industry of teaching itself or about certifications. Yet continuing education is so much more than maintaining a certification or meeting a job requirement.
Instead of letting the education buck stop once an employee has been hired, talent managers and organizational leaders should encourage employee education, from a graduate school course here or there to a full-on degree at any level. Why? For many reasons, but here are three of the biggest:
Today’s organizations and industries change at paces that were unseen just a decade ago. Some industries change on a daily basis, and organizations need talent that is both willing and able to change on those whims. However, being willing and being able are not the same thing.
Many members of your talent pool will be willing to adapt to the changes of your industry or your organization, but lack some of the skill and experience that makes it easier. Even taking a graduate school course on organizational dynamics can prepare talent for changes within the organization.
Education itself has become adaptable to your talent, using technology to make a difference in how education is delivered to students. Use this to your advantage as talent managers and make online education resources available to your employees. Not only will this teach them tech skills they may not have, but it will help them think outside their comfort zones.
Taking online business courses with a student living in China completely changed the way I looked at that country’s economy as well as mainstream media’s reporting of it.
Even the most traditional of degree fields or courses can breed creativity among your talent. Getting a Master of Business Administration online actually helped me think outside the box at my previous organization. So much so that I left it, but don’t let that frighten you into discouraging your employees from adding to their education portfolios.
Instead, use it as a cautionary tale: put the creativity it breeds to use. Challenge talent to use their classes as work studies and work product in order to solve problems. Does your organization work with the public? Many of these less-common MPA careers can be applied creativity to a public service agency: use the journalism lover to market your agency’s brand; the education advocate to manage the very employee education program you’ll want to start.
The global perspective that makes many learners more adaptable can also make them more creative. Students in any course will feed off one another, and it’s no different in graduate school, whether online or in-person.
The older we get, the more set in our ways we tend to become. We’ve found great ways of doing things, and our belief systems have been formed. We don’t like change. We fear it.
The problem with that is it leads us to be less empathetic. The best talent managers want employees who can see multiple points of view. This is especially the case for employees who lead others. As noted in this resource from Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business, empathy is one of the leading qualities hiring managers look for in their talent pool.
Empathy, however, isn’t just a quality someone has or doesn’t. It can be cultivated through experiences and practices. One of the best experiences for that is continuing education. As empathy is, essentially, the practice of putting oneself in another’s shoes, education is the perfect model for this, especially as we age.
Continuing an education isn’t for every member of your talent pool. Some may not like the school environment. Others may not be at the right stage in life or career. For those who have considered the ROI of a graduate degree or bachelor’s, support them. Offer tuition reimbursements if possible, even subsidies. The ROI for your organization will be immeasurable.