Guest Post by Jessica Thiefels

Leaders who are the most relevant and effective within their spheres of influence are those who prioritize continued growth and learning—both for themselves and their teams. This education-first approach to business is successful because it promotes a culture in which everyone is encouraged to learn, fail and further their skills for the benefit of the business.

Why Being an Education-First Leader Matters

The ROI of learning is clear when you realize that companies who invest in recurrent, intentional employee training yield 24 percent more of a profit margin than companies who overlook this resource, according to the Association for Talent Development.

If you know you’re lacking in this area, use the following strategies to make education a priority for yourself and your employees.

Communicate Your Learning Goals from the Onset

If you want to create a framework that values education, you need to immerse your team in this environment from the moment you hire them. This extends past asking your team to read a handbook or attend a seminar. You need to communicate the specific goals and expectations you have for their skill development, and equip them with the tools and support they need to reach those goals.

This requires you to develop a partnership between yourself, other managers, and the HR team, suggests SHRM: “It’s not enough to announce your program in an e-newsletter or social media post and then rely on employees to ‘get it;’ HR departments must actively market their educational offerings, share their philosophy around learning, and encourage managers to talk up training and development opportunities.”

Work together to determine how you’ll promote these learning opportunities, and how you’ll integrate them during on-boarding. How will you talk about it in marketing? How quickly can you integrate this into the new hire process?

Allocate Both the Time and Resources for Training

When you invest in an employee’s career development, you’re more likely to secure their retention for the long-term. An estimated 94 percent of professionals confirm that they’d remain at a business that helps them expand their knowledge and learn new skills, according to the 2018 LinkedIn Workplace Learning Report.

However, the survey also found that the main reason employees feel hindered from learning is insufficient time or educational resources. Your job is to make tools for learning accessible and ensure that each person has adequate time built into their schedule to focus on educational opportunities.

Consider how you can use online micro-learning to address these issues. This gives employees access to the resources they need when they’re ready to use them. With short, micro-lessons, they can also make time for learning without losing a large portion of their day.

Invite Employee Feedback and Collaboration

Learning is not a static process—it’s dynamic and requires forward motion, which means you need to assess consistently, measure, and revise the training. When you collaborate with employees to get feedback, you get a chance to learn too. This is an opportunity to understand more about how they learn and how they can get more from this time.

The easiest way to facilitate feedback is with regular surveys, sent around once each month or quarter. This gives employees a chance to speak up and ask for what they want, while allowing you to hone the learning to be most valuable to them. Follow up with 1-on-1 meetings to dig deeper if needed.

Focus on Your Development

This education-first approach applies to both your employees and you, along with other leaders within the company. To inspire an enthusiasm for learning on your team, you need to demonstrate an initiative to sharpen and fine-tune your business acuity as well.

Kevin Sealey, the education-first vice president of operations for EPOCH Student Living, explains how this benefits your business, not just you personally: “Do not ever stop learning and further developing your craft. You need to continue to grow knowledge of your business and any business that could impact you. Being at the forefront of the latest industry knowledge will put you in a position for great success.”

Find opportunities to learn with your team, in addition to attending training seminars, conferences and other events. Put them on your calendar so employees can see your commitment, and don’t forget to share insights you gleaned with your team afterward.

Be an Education-First Leader

Knowledge really is power, and making it a priority in your business ensures that you’ll reap the rewards. Keep education at the forefront of your business model and watch as you and your team grow along with the company.

Photo by Kimberly Farmer on Unsplash

Guest Post

Jessica ThiefelsJessica Thiefels is an entrepreneur and founder and CEO of Jessica Thiefels Consulting. She’s been writing for more than ten years and has been featured in top publications like Forbes. She also writes for Business Insider, Virgin, Glassdoor and more. Follow her on Twitter @JThiefels and connect on LinkedIn.


An Education-First Leader is successful because they promote a culture where everyone is encouraged to further their skills for the benefit of the business.