The mind is a curious place. It’s always dreaming, hoping, creating, and adapting. As a human race, we crave learning and discovery like water. It gives us something to live for, to work towards. Scientifically, learning changes the composition of our brains. When we make connections and deepen our knowledge, our brain creates new neurons. It keeps the mind and imagination alive.

When we’re learning something new, whether about our department, industry, or an unrelated side hobby, we become happier. When we’re involved in an engaging learning activity, we enter what psychologists call “flow.” We are absorbed in our activity. Time passes quickly. And when we’re finished, we feel accomplishment, satisfaction, and increased self-esteem. Recognizing and taking action on your employees’ natural desire to learn breeds higher employee engagement because it creates a work environment of appreciation and growth (the #1 most important factor when looking for a job, according to 42% of employees). There are many ways to encourage this culture of learning at your organization. 

Lunch and Learns

Lunch and Learns occur during everyone’s favorite hour: lunch hour! Interested employees enjoy a meal (either brought or on the company) while a different team every session gives a presentation. It can be about a new project they’re working on, new technologies that impact their workflow, or something else that the general office doesn’t know. The bonus? It doesn’t take away from any work time, and it generates a stronger office community since people feel included in what’s going on. 

Hosting Outside Companies

There is always a curiosity about how other companies function and what they’ve learned throughout their workflow. The best way to channel that curiosity to your organization’s advantage is by inviting professionals from a variety of companies to share their experiences and knowledge with your personnel. Many companies host these series during evenings in tandem with a happy-hour. It freshens up the office with new perspectives and ideas.

Degree & Additional Certifications Support.

Your copywriter might want to learn more about SEO. Your developer was eyeing the PMP night course. Your public relations manager is interested in a master’s degree. Not all employees have the time or money to pursue a degree of interest, especially one that would make them better at their job. Offering time flexibility, a stipend, or some other benefit shows you support your workforce’s desire to learn and improve, all while increasing their dedication to the company while they reach their personal learning goals.

Outside Classes

If you want to personalize your organization’s learning culture, provide your employees with the chance to perfect a hobby with vouchers to classes they would find interesting. This thoughtful gift promotes learning but lets your staff do it on their own time with something meaningful to them. It encourages them to learn something that they are passionate or curious about, and stimulates their need for knowledge, development, and growth. 

Hobby Workshops

Giving your employees a chance to try new hobbies, all together, is camaraderie and productivity at its finest. Your employees will look forward to a workshop, whether it’s recurring or just a one-time event. Common workshops include basic coding, self-defense, mindfulness, floral arrangements, coffee tastings, even a new language. You can choose courses that relax your employees, or that subtly enhance other skills that are helpful toward their job — ones that encourage problem-solving or attention to detail.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Stimulating your talents’ learning racks up a serious bill. However, the return on investment makes up for it. First, organizations that offer training and professional development keep 86% of millennial workers from leaving. That’s not a percentage to ignore, especially when millennials make up the majority of the workforce. 

Employee retention aside, when your employees learn new skills (soft and hard) and gain more certifications, their performance in their current position is enhanced. It also makes them more agile in the company — giving them the ability to take on more complex roles. 

Learning culture is about showing employees that their advancement matters as much to you as it does to them. So choose the way that works best for your organization, and see the dedication and appreciation shine through your employees.