When I accepted the job offer to join the HARDI team in January of 2014, one of the first things Emily, my soon to be boss, asked me was if I would be available to attend the University of Innovative Distribution (UID) in early March. For a little background, I was hired for my experience in training and employee development, and knew very little about the industry at the time. This specific conference was a great opportunity to attend several classes geared toward the various positions that comprise our member companies, and also meet some HARDI members for the first time (If you’ve never attended, you should – it’s an incredible event, and your HARDI membership gets you a sizable discount on registration).


Going back to my hiring: I was caught off guard that, even before my onboarding, HARDI was already thinking of ways to engage me and grow my expertise. It shouldn’t have been surprising, considering the pillar I was joining, but the reality is that not all employers consider training to be a top priority, and most don’t give it a second thought past the employee’s onboarding. (If you fall into this category, I’d suggest taking a few minutes to read through a couple of case studies that break down the ROI of ongoing training. Spoiler alert: It’s always worth it. Motorola calculated that every dollar spent on training yields an approximate 30 percent gain in productivity within a three-year period. Motorola also used training to reduce costs by over $3 billion and increase profits by 47 percent.)


I’m happy to report that two-and-a-half years later I’m fortunate enough to attend industry events like it’s my job (lame joke), and have access to all of the courses anyone could want through HEAT.U.


How can you create a culture of learning?


Something we hear from our members all the time is that they want to start training their staff but have no idea where to begin. The best place to start is to figure out what “success” looks like to you. What are your pain points, and which skillsets would best address them? From there, you can start thinking about the structure of the program.


Do you want every employee to earn “x” number of credit hours on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis? Should it be tied into your compensation plan and blended in with other, already established, goals? Or is it simply important for your employees to know that training is available to them on an a-la-carte basis?


At the risk of exceeding the appropriate word count of a blog post, I want to skip ahead to the most important part of a training program: really making an effort to embed it in your culture. Talk about it. Applaud successes and think of creative ways to reward course completions. It’s not always about pay raises and bonuses, but a little recognition goes a long way.


We do everything we can to encourage course completions for every learner, but it should start from the top of your company. Your employees will appreciate the recognition more than you know, and the ROI will soon follow.


The first step is the most difficult one to take, but can you afford not to?

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