One of the hardest challenges many companies face when developing their talent pool is continuing education. No, I'm not talking about getting a masters in your field or night school. I'm talking about continual learning to ensure that your employees remain at the cutting edge of their field.
Unless you are a larger company with time and resources to spare, every employee hour is a valuable commodity which may determine the company's profitability for the year. With pressure like that, it's hard to see the value of pulling someone off of a project to focus solely on learning. And yet, it is increasingly important for companies to encourage it. So when your back is against the wall and you can't afford it, what options do you have?
Every company's needs are different, so it's hard to give an overarching solution that fits every situation. What I CAN speak to though, is the way that we encourage talent development at Code Koalas.
Even though we are a smaller company of 13+ people, we have always encouraged continual learning as part of our culture. Every employee is provided with a Kindle, and access to a library of business books that we have read together over the past 10 years. From personal growth to communication and managing clients more efficiently, employees are encouraged to learn, utilize and grow through these free resources.
We also provide every employee with a monthly learning budget designed to engage their 'professional interests'. Each employee is allowed to focus on what interests them, as long as it involves learning and improving themselves. Oftentimes this looks like monthly raspberry pi projects, coding classes or additional books and resources. Since each developer is able to focus on their passion projects, they often tackle these projects after hours, thus rarely conflicting with billable work every week.
Another successful opportunity that we provide our developers are bi-weekly workshops over lunch. These workshops provide more experienced developers the opportunity to share their skills and knowledge with less experienced developers. Not only do these workshops help improve developer skills through shared knowledge, they also help to solidify the knowledge for the presenter as they are forced to speak and share their knowledge with others.
These are just a handful of ways that we are able to encourage a vibrant learning culture at Code Koalas, while maintaining profitability and a great work environment. Continual learning is a vital part of any healthy company that wants to stay at the cutting edge of their industry. Don't sell yourself short. Whether it's through the methods that we employ or others, make sure you encourage learning at your company. Your developers (and bottom line) will thank you!