In which way do you link learning to reward?
There are two distinct ways to link learning to reward and recognition. Both have pros and cons. Here we take a closer look at the issues and benefits of combining learning and reward.
Learning as a key benefit for employees
Some companies use learning as part of their reward and recognition strategy. From a business perspective (if you do it right), this can be a smart strategy. In the right culture, employees can embrace and enjoy being given development opportunities. In this scenario, your reward is then simultaneously a benefit. As a reward, this will bring additional benefit to your business. So imagine the scenario, you have an employee who is performing well. You then reward them with further learning opportunities. This is a win/win as it develops your employee and creates more skilled people for your business.
Using learning and development as a reward has many benefits. It helps to shape your culture, underpinning a learning ethos in the workplace. Rewarding high performing people means the investment of your training budget is likely going to people it is going to benefit most. It is better than investing in individuals who will not yield an acceptable return on your investment.
Rewarding good performers with training opportunities sends a more positive message to the rest of your team. They will realise that when they do well, they will have access to good quality development interventions. Overall it can create a synergistic effect, embedding the notion of learning across the team and organisation.
The problem is that when you only do it in this way, training may not always be applied where it is needed most. Your achievers have earned the investment of further development. However, often the biggest benefit from learning will come from employees who you may not currently consider being in your top performers’ category. To get the most from your training initiatives, you need to consider using it as an enabler of achievement as well as a reward for achievement, which leads to the second scenario.
Rewarding employees who undertake learning
On the other side of the coin are those companies that reward and recognize people for learning. There are so many different ways to approach this. Some companies send out a note of congratulations in a flash email. Alternatively, they announce successes in the company newsletter. There may even be an award ceremony. Any good company will reward employees with learning opportunities, as well as rewarding people for undertaking learning opportunities.
Using new-found skills
The wisest of them all remember to at least create opportunities for employees to apply their new-found skills in the workplace. This is a no brainer if you’ve invested time in helping people to learn. Without application, it’s just a “nice to have” intervention. Conversely, this strategy carries a more significant danger. If you fail to create those opportunities to apply the new skills and expect an employee to remain unchanged after their learning experience, you have effectively wasted precious resources. Additionally, employees can feel frustrated, demotivated and you may ultimately lose them.
There are a number of reasons organisations don’t free up opportunities for people to put learning into practice. It might be there is a fear of investing in people, only to lose them to the competition. It could be because there is a resistance to change. Talking about change is much easier than taking the difficult steps to people out of their comforts zone and getting on with the change. Sometimes, learning interventions equip employees with knowledge and ideas which are different from that shared by senior management. It can take maturity and courage for a management team to accept the challenge. In these circumstances, the management team must remain open to new ideas instead of becoming defensive.
The best of both worlds
Perhaps it’s useful to consider both approaches to successfully link learning to reward and recognition. A carefully thought out strategy harnessing the benefits of both may mean your business can have the best of both worlds. Whatever you choose, make sure employees are able to put their learning into practice. This will benefit them and your business.
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