Skip to main content

When It Comes to Learning & Development, Employees Know Best

  • 3 Min Read

Three reasons why employees should manage their own training  


“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody,” wrote Ernest Hemingway, “is to trust them.”

In one line, Hemingway gets at the paradox of one of the most important values in life, love, and business: that the only way to find out whether someone is trustworthy is to give them trust.

I’ve been a people and culture executive for about 20 years, working in a broad range of businesses and leading a variety of organizational and change initiatives. But the one constant for me in all my work has been my attitude toward trust. I believe that trust is key. It helps people feel as though their experiences are valued, their talents and skills are encouraged, their input is important, and their work is meaningful.

A lot of other executives feel that way too. They’re willing to trust people to manage big projects with tight deadlines and high stakes. But for some reason, when it comes to employee training, trust goes out the window for some of us. Suddenly, when professional development is involved, we think we know best.

I’ve learned that isn’t true. In fact, I’ve learned three reasons why trusting employees to choose their own training leads to better outcomes for employers and employees alike.

1. Employees know what skills are needed and applicable to their own job.

In my experience, employees are far more networked with their colleagues than most managers realize. Whether it’s through LinkedIn, conferences, or friendships, workers can self-identify what skills they’re lacking, and what would make them more effective on the job.

2. Employees know what skills they will need next.

Just like they know what learning they are currently lacking, employees also know—far better than their managers do—what their own aspirations are. They know how to set a path for success for themselves and can map out an intentional strategy for getting the learning they want.

3. Career development is the biggest factor in retention.

One of the biggest draws in a job search—particularly for younger workers—is the opportunity to learn. One of the primary reasons people give for leaving a job is the lack of learning opportunities that would progress their careers. By giving employees control over their own development, you’re offering them a path to promotion and improvement, which leads to longer-term retention.

The challenge with employee-driven learning programs lies in their administration. How should you proceed and who handles approvals? Does the employee need to fund the course(s) upfront? How can L&D gain visibility into the demand for skills across the entire organization? As D2Lers, we fortunately have access to a system—created by us—that solves these problems.

We rolled out an employee-led learning program available to all D2Lers called Catch the Wave. It’s powered by D2L Wave, our free upskilling education platform we’re launching in North America. Every employee can access a centralized marketplace to browse our catalog of education options, as well as request and register for the course they’re interested in, and employers only pay for the courses that employees take. For me, it’s a powerful recruitment and retention tool that puts learning in the hands of individual employees but also lets employers learn what skills are in demand. These insights give me visibility into the gaps that exist across the entire organization.

By trusting and giving employees greater control over their own learning, we can understand the interests and career aspirations for each individual employee. We track the skills gained over time to ensure we’re making impactful professional development investment for our organization. It is one of the most fulfilling aspects of my job, and I’m excited to have the opportunity to witness this at D2L.

Try D2L Wave Today to transform your workforce with upskilling education

Written by:

Yvonne Bell
Yvonne Bell

Yvonne leads D2L’s People and Culture team, including talent acquisition, leadership development, diversity and inclusion, talent management, total rewards, retention, and career coaching. She works closely with D2L’s business leaders to ensure that D2L’s People and Culture strategy aligns with D2L’s business strategy to drive the company’s organizational performance and growth.
Before joining D2L, Yvonne was the VP of global HR organization effectiveness and talent at OpenText, where she was involved in more than 35 acquisitions, led or contributed to People and Culture teams, successfully worked to assimilate acquisitions into company standards and practices, and merged organizations focusing on the engagement and integration of cultures, leaders, and employees. Yvonne has also held successive positions of responsibility at KPMG Canada and Toyota.

Yvonne is passionate about caring for others and healthy living, and is a huge supporter of dogs, having successfully adopted several dogs of her own. She holds a degree in sociology and psychology from the University of Waterloo, Post Grad Diploma in career development from Conestoga College, and a Leadership Development Certificate from the University of Western Ontario.

Stay in the know

Educators and training pros get our insights, tips, and best practices delivered monthly