The Value of Education: What It Means to be a Life-Long Learner

Posted by Mason Holloway on September 12, 2019

The Value of Learning

By Mason Holloway, VP of Deltek University, Deltek.

The Learning Journey

So here we are in the “back to school” season. Lots of activity as kids from kindergarten to college arm themselves with the necessary supplies and prepare themselves for the coming information (and at times work) overload. Meanwhile, parents shop, drive, support and otherwise arm their students to succeed. While in the schools themselves, the teachers prepare their classes with lesson plans, curriculum plans, and schedules.

In 2017 the U.S. spent a whopping $12,201 per student, which may seem like an extraordinary amount when you think about the number of kids enrolled in K-12. But what about employees? Ever thought about the price tag associated with on-the-job training or continuing education? Learning is a life-long journey and not one that stops when you graduate, so isn't it just as important to invest in your career? While the U.S. spent $12,201 on education per student from K-12, we found that the average investment per employee was $986 on learning opportunities. Is education really 12x more important when we are young?

Obviously, there are some key differences. As children, we have a LOT to learn. In fact, one might argue, we have ALL of it to learn. However, when we are engaged employees in an organization, we really only have 5 circumstances where we REALLY need training (adapted from Bob Mosher & Conrad Gottfredson, 5 Moments of Need) these include:

Five Circumstances Where Employees Really Need Training

  1. We are learning something for the first time – we are new to the role or there is a new system or process introduced
  2. We need to gain mastery of our job – we know the basics of how to do it and what to do, but the basics won’t get us to the next level
  3. We are trying out newly learned concepts in the context of our job and sometimes need to get “unstuck”
  4. We are stuck, something is not working the way we expected or we generally need to troubleshoot a system or process we engage with and
  5. Things have changed (again) and now we need to learn the new thing

So rather than learning it ALL – we learn what we need in the context of our job at the moment we need. And this is where we need to be deliberate, each moment of need is our own “back to school” moment.  Each one requires a different approach to learning, and each one is important, if not necessary to the successful accomplishment of job duties.

It falls to us then, as life-long learners, to ensure that we have the learning necessary for our job success. It falls to us as leaders to ensure that our learners have access to the kinds of learning that they need to meet those five circumstances. And it falls to us as businesses to ensure that we recognize the importance by providing the time and funding to ensure their availability and success.  

Make no mistake, investing in new processes, new tools or software system on their own will not get you to the results you want. Only when your people know how to fully exploit the value of those investments by applying them in their work toward your business goals and objectives, can you get the return on those investments? In other words – the only way to move forward to the results you want is to ensure that your employees when they need it, can get back to school to learn how to make it happen.

Six Tips to Keep in Mind to Arm Your Learners for Success

  1. Begin with the End in Mind: Know what specific skill or knowledge you need to address, how it connects to the business, and what it looks like. Nothing kills learning more that is being disconnected from the business or “leaving it to the learner” to figure out where it fits.
  2. Make it Important: If learning (and ongoing learning) is important to the leaders in the business, it will be important to everyone in the business. Talk about it, make it visible, make it part of the dialogue and ongoing plans.
  3. Make the Time: Too often organizations will put out training without making the time to consume it explicitly.  We can schedule holidays – why not learning days? These don’t have to be company-wide but could rotate among department or teams. The key is that they are not left to the learner to squeeze into an already overloaded schedule.
  4. Match the Message to the Modality: If you want to address the need for applying what you’ve learned, another class will not work. You need to have a quick, easily accessible refresher.  If, however, it is a whole new set of concepts, then a quick job aid just won’t do.
  5. Measure the Progress: In business, we get what we measure. This is why we measure sales, and productivity, and other KPIs.  If we want learning to matter, we need to measure it.
  6. Reward the Effort: A little recognition goes a long way. Make it worth their while by offing small incentives for completing the learning – it will have a dramatic effect on the consumption.

The takeaway then is this- learning matters and is a proven return on investment. Within Deltek, we encourage each employee to “Own Your Career.” This means that, although we provide a range of development opportunities, ultimately each employee drives their own learning journey—which, incidentally, begins with our onboarding program on the first day of employment and continues for the duration of each team member’s career. Those who embrace curiosity tend to take greater advantage of these offerings, whether they are one of the thousands of LinkedIn Learning courses that are available enterprise-wide across Deltek or one of our many learning programs.

The practice of continuous learning nurtures the business, supports growth, and creates opportunities for greater impact. Deltek Learning Paths provide the perfect opportunity for employees to revisit their learning needs at every level in the organization. 


About the Author

Mason Holloway is VP of Deltek University and a proven key performer with over 20 years of experience in senior leadership, organizational design and development, strategy development, performance improvement, human capital and change management. Mason graduated from University of Maryland. Connect with Mason on LinkedIn.