How the transition to adult education is changing business

Every business is built on its human resources. These people have experienced unprecedented changes since 2020, and with them the companies they work for.

Many employers are paying more, increasing benefits and adding flexibility to once-rigid schedules to attract and retain top talent. Meanwhile, economic uncertainties are causing other companies to rein in costs until they can overcome them. In this tug-of-war, it is difficult to predict which approaches can help a company get ahead of the competition.

It is not a good strategy to achieve growth by grinding employees to level. Instead, companies should focus on building their employees so they can in turn grow the business. Adult learning can be the perfect way to achieve this.

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

Adult learning elevates everyone

You’ve probably heard the Dr. Seuss quote: “The more you read, the more things you’ll know. The more you learn, the more places you’ll go.” The value of lifelong learning is almost undeniable. But it’s no longer just about learning more at work or reading or traveling. It is about adult education.

The adjective “adult” is significant here, and not only because those who are learning are already of legal age. It is used because working adults face many more obstacles during the learning process. There’s the transition back to education, the cost of it, the time it takes and all the normal distractions of full-time jobs, kids and — maybe — a social life.

Employers have a perfect opportunity to remove some of these barriers for employees who want to further their education. If employers take advantage of this, they can develop their own talent to adapt to the changing needs within their companies.

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

Retention, engagement, job satisfaction and productivity increase when employers actively encourage adult education. In that scenario, everyone goes to their seats.

Adult learning is a piece of the HR strategy puzzle

Automation driven by the development of artificial intelligence and machine learning is also changing the face of business. Long-term HR strategies must consider the effect it will have on the company’s workforce. Pins and holes are changed simultaneously.

It’s an almost overwhelming proposition for HR managers. They look at the employee roster and see how many people could be laid off because of technology. At the same time, they are looking at the new positions this technology is creating and wondering where they will find the talent to fill them. Adult education should be part of this puzzle.

The potential of automation in emerging technology will change everything from sales and marketing to customer service and fulfillment. In fact, it is already changing roles and accelerating change daily. Company leadership needs to look down the road and plan accordingly.

Consider those employees whose roles will be replaced by automation. Provide them with the educational opportunities they need to transition into newly created roles or to perform future roles that will require the latest technological advances. A smart retraining strategy is a great way to keep the best and brightest in the company.

Taking a long-term view will also transform other HR functions, such as job creation, recruiting, hiring and onboarding. Of course, technology has challenged the status quo since the invention of the wheel. Adult education will help companies face the challenges of today’s technological development.

Adult learning promotes diversity

The pandemic, social unrest and sharp political divisions have prompted companies to confront their diversity demons. Diversity, equality and inclusion have reshaped everything from board and boss agendas to exit interviews. No one said changing hundreds of years of collective corporate history would be easy.

Most companies still struggle to meet the DE&I goals they have set. In fact, many made little progress at all. And if they manage to get diversity right, they can’t seem to keep up with bits of equality and inclusion.

Creating a diverse workforce requires a major shift in multiple business practices, from writing job descriptions to eliminating recruiter bias. Adult learning should not be overlooked as a potential route to achieving even the most ambitious diversity goals. And it can do so on two key fronts.

First, educating adults about diversity issues for leadership and human resources can change entrenched perspectives from the top down. Second, companies can offer educational opportunities to current team members. Employees of certain races, social origins, genders, and sexual orientations may not have had some of the educational opportunities of their white, male, cisgender counterparts. Adult learning can reduce this gap. And when these diverse employees come to work, continuing education can allow more of them to advance within the company.

Using adult education as a tool to create a truly diverse, equitable and inclusive workforce is wise. As a result, companies rely less on market forces and more on themselves. They create their own success from within, rather than just paying lip service to DE&I goals.

Making a change

Education can be the key to success in business. Employees know this and are often enthusiastic about improving their jobs to advance their careers. Companies should accept and support these employees.

So many forces are changing the way business is done these days. Adult learning is simple and cost-effective learning that will put employees and employers at the head of the class.

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