As society navigates a year of uncertainty and leaders are challenged to improve workplace health and wellbeing, there’s one solution that often gets overlooked – learning and development.
Believe it or not, learning and development has been around for a long time. Prior to the 21st century, it was a means of response to what the country needed at a moment in time - whether that be the industrial revolution or manufacturing munitions in WW1.
Jump forward to the modern workplace, and learning and development are available in abundance. Organizations can support anyone and everyone with just about any skill set in every field.
The latest advancements in the L&D industry have seen onboarding and skills training delivered directly to learners’ personal devices thanks to mobile learning, and even incorporated technological innovations such as VR to enhance the learner experience even further. Providing more efficient ways to upskill and engage the workforce has been crucial for businesses looking to improve productivity and performance.
In addition to helping employees sharpen their skills, we’re exploring the health and wellbeing benefits that learning and development can offer – a vastly growing demand of employees in the workplace.
The role of employee wellbeing in the workplace
Employee wellbeing has always been an essential ingredient to a successful business. Unfortunately, it’s just never made the priorities list for leaders.
In a post-pandemic workplace, health and wellbeing remain incredibly important to employees. Many of us have realised in the past couple of years that our mental health can deteriorate, and self-care must be an ongoing and robust effort.
Since COVID-19, employees have become vocal about the changes they expect to see. From hybrid to remote work demands, better L&D opportunities and healthcare access, times are changing and employers must lean into a people-first approach.
However, HR leaders are beginning to realise this, with 86% of more than 500 HR decision-makers believing their staff need better health and wellbeing support. According to another report, wellness programs can help minimise absenteeism by 14% to 19% in an organisation.
Ultimately, employee wellbeing has become a necessity for the modern employee. Box-ticking incentives, meaningless perks and a fractured wellbeing strategy just isn’t attracting talent anymore.
So, why should HR teams look to learning and development as a means to enhance employee wellbeing? Let’s dive right into that now.
3 ways L&D supports healthier, happier employees
Below are three ways that learning and development can support an organization's wider wellbeing strategy. This list is by no means exhaustive, but it is the starting point to recognise the true power of L&D.
Motivation and the desire to achieve drives wellbeing
Let’s begin with motivation and drive. Learning and development is a great way to acquire new skills and understanding of different topics. As we learn more, we’re able to think differently, connecting the dots in our minds between things we previously couldn’t.
This new way of thinking often motivates us to achieve more. We no longer see a ceiling to our achievements and can utilise the new learnings in many ways.
The pinnacle of Mazlow’s Hierarchy of Needs is self-actualization, or “achieving one’s full potential”. Through L&D, employees are given the opportunity to reach this, and so providing the means to achieve this is undoubtedly a key driver of employee wellbeing.
Valued employees are engaged employees
One of the biggest challenges employers face in the modern workplace is employee engagement. We all have different ambitions, goals and aspirations for our careers, and only once these are met do we feel engaged at work.
Some of us want to become managers, others want to learn new skills. Engagement depends on how fulfilling our careers are. The simple truth is that both becoming a manager or developing a specific skillset requires training and learning.
When we feel our thoughts, ideas and concerns are heard, we feel valued – and this results in happiness with our career. Learning and development isn’t just about motivating and inspiring employees.
It’s creating value in employees; a sense of belonging and worthiness in the workplace. Organisations that make their employees feel this way are setting both their employees and business up for success.
Learning and development is the future of happier, healthier employees
So, we now know valued employees are happy employees. To make employees feel valued, leaders must listen to their team’s needs, ambitions and ideas.
Fortunately for many organisations that actively invest in learning and development, the future looks bright. A survey conducted by Gallup revealed that 59% of millennials say opportunities to learn and develop are very important when choosing a new job.
Interestingly, 44% of Gen Xers and 41% of Baby Boomers said the same about these types of opportunities. The statistics don’t lie. Younger generations in the workplace value learning and development much more.
By offering learning and development to employees, you are increasing their happiness and, in turn, supporting the wellbeing of your team.
Leaders must think outside the box and get creative with L&D. There are ample opportunities to consider, such as stress management training, life coaching services, or even interviewing employees to see what they’d like to learn.
The rise of microlearning has made the delivery of training even easier for companies. With the ability to create and deliver engaging, bite-size lessons in a matter of minutes, learning and development can be made accessible to anyone - no matter what time, place or device.
Ultimately, learning and development is a necessity both in the current and future workplace. It boosts brain health, inspires employees, supports a generation that values learning, and much more.
Learning and development should be part of any employee wellbeing strategy. It’s an essential ingredient to a people-first approach and creates a win-win situation for all.
Heka is an employee wellbeing platform co-founded by Alex Hind; Heka provides employees with thousands of personalised health and wellbeing experiences.