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Collaborating With Universities to Create a Continuous Learning Culture
Another approach is to collaborate with others in your industry on defining career paths and linking with educational institutions to provide the training needed for higher-skilled positions in the industry. Good examples of such alliances are the National Coalition for Telecommunications Education and Learning (www.nactel.org) or the Energy Providers Coalition for Education (www.epceonline.org).
Support Informal Learning
Although formal learning - and especially learning leading to educational credentials - is a critical tool for developing your employees, you also need to acknowledge and address head-on the fact that most work-related learning occurs informally, on the job. A 1998 study by the Center for Workforce Development estimated that more than 60 percent of the most critical knowledge and skills are learned at work, not in a classroom.
The trick for employers is to learn how to encourage informal learning and provide more opportunities for informal learning to take place. Examples of such opportunities include:
- Peer training.
- Working in teams, especially cross-functional ones.
- Problem-solving sessions.
- Rotational assignments between departments.
- Mentoring relationships.
These informal learning opportunities can provide a valuable complement to the formal learning that is offered, primarily by providing workers with exposure to the many functions and units of the company before deciding on a specialty area.
Partnerships with educational institutions are a critical tool for any company wishing to develop its employees. The institutions provide the degrees and the credentials that are needed to motivate employees, and colleges and universities can help to establish a cost-effective recruiting pipeline for new talent. But institutional partnerships are also critical for helping develop a continuous learning culture in your organization - provided that you do your part as well.
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