How The Shift To Adult Learning Is Changing Business

Every business is built on its human resources. Those humans have experienced unprecedented change since 2020 and, with them, the companies they work for.

Many employers are paying more, increasing benefits and adding flexibility to once-rigid scheduling to attract and retain the best talent. Meanwhile, economic uncertainties are causing other companies to rein in costs until they can ride it out. In this tug-of-war, it’s tough to anticipate which approaches can help a business move ahead of its competitors.

It’s not sound strategy to achieve growth by grinding employees down to a nub. Instead, companies should focus on building their employees themselves so they, in turn, can grow the business. Adult learning may be the perfect way to achieve this.

The shift toward helping employees bloom where they are planted is once again changing business as usual. And companies that make that shift accordingly will benefit. Here are a few reasons why you don’t want to miss out.

Adult Learning Lifts Everyone

You have probably heard the Doctor Seuss passage: “The more you read, the more things you shall know. The more that you learn, the more places you shall go.” The value of lifelong learning is virtually indisputable. But it’s no longer just about learning more on the job or reading or traveling more. It’s about adult education.

The “adult” adjective is significant here, and not just because those learning are over the age of majority. It’s used because working adults face a lot more barriers during the learning process. There is the transition back to education, the cost of it, the time needed to devote to it, and all the normal distractions of full-time jobs, kids and—maybe—a social life.

Employers have the perfect opportunity to remove some of those barriers for employees who want to further their education. If employers take advantage of it, they can grow their own talent to right-fit changing needs within their companies.

The vast majority of employees agree that access to professional development opportunities is vital. If granted access, they’re also more likely to continue working for the employer that invested in them.

Retention, engagement, job satisfaction and productivity all rise when employers actively encourage adult education. In that scenario, everyone gets to go places.

Adult Learning Is a Piece of the HR Strategy Puzzle

Automation spurred by the development of artificial intelligence and machine learning is also changing the face of business. Long-term HR strategies must consider the impact it will have on a company’s workforce. The pegs and the holes are morphing simultaneously.

It’s an almost overwhelming proposition for HR managers. They’re looking at the employee roster and seeing how many people may be made redundant by technology. At the same time, they’re looking at novel positions being created by that technology and wondering where they’ll find the talent to fill them. Adult education should be a piece of this puzzle.

Automation potential in emerging technology will change everything from sales and marketing to customer service and fulfillment. In fact, it’s already altering roles and accelerating the changes daily. Company leadership needs to peer down the road and plan accordingly.

Consider those employees whose roles will be replaced by automation. Provide the educational opportunities they need to move into newly created roles or to handle future roles the latest technological advances will demand. A savvy reskilling strategy is a great way to retain a company’s best and brightest.

Taking the long view will also transform other HR functions, such as creating job postings, recruiting, hiring and onboarding. Of course, technology has challenged the status quo since the invention of the wheel. Adult education will help companies meet the challenges today’s tech developments pose.

Adult Learning Promotes Diversity

The pandemic, social unrest and sharp political divides have prompted companies to confront their diversity demons. Diversity, equity and inclusion have reshaped everything from board and C-suite agendas to the exit interview. No one said altering hundreds of years of collective corporate histories would be easy.

Most companies continue to struggle with reaching the DE&I goals they have set. In fact, many have made little headway at all. And if they manage to get diversity right, they can’t seem to follow through with the equity and inclusion bits.

Creating a diverse workforce requires a sea change in multiple business practices, from the writing of job descriptions to eliminating recruiter bias. Adult learning shouldn’t be overlooked as a potential path to achieving even the most ambitious diversity goals. And it can do so on two key fronts.

First, adult education on diversity issues for leadership and HR can alter entrenched perspectives from the top down. Second, companies can offer educational opportunities to current team members. Employees of certain races, social backgrounds, genders and sexual orientations may have lacked some of the educational opportunities of their white, male, cisgendered colleagues. Adult learning can narrow that gap. And once these diverse employees are on the job, continuing education can keep more of them advancing within the company.

Using adult education as a tool for creating a truly diverse, equitable and inclusive workforce is shrewd. It makes companies less reliant on market forces and more self-reliant. They’re creating their own success from within, rather than paying lip service to DE&I goals.

Making the Shift

Education can be the key to success in business. Employees know that, and they’re often enthusiastic about furthering theirs to advance their careers. Companies need to embrace and support those employees.

So many forces are changing how business is done these days. Adult learning is an easy and profitable one that will take employees and employers to the head of the class.

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