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As a society, we expect a lot from our faculty: to inspire students, challenge perceptions, introduce new skills and refine thought processes. We trust them to shape the minds of future leaders and to set them up for long-term success. But students aren’t the only ones in the classroom who deserve access to learning and development opportunities—faculty do, too.

The need for continuing education is often overlooked. But in any field or industry, the development of one’s skill set should not stop upon receiving a degree. To be truly successful at anything, workers need to keep a growth mindset about their capabilities. Faculty are not immune to this reality, and they similarly desire opportunities for professional growth.

The University of North Carolina (UNC) System was wary of this kind of learning stagnation among its faculty and administrators and wanted to act on it. But in a school system of more than 47,000 employees, the task was not an easy one. UNC tapped Cornerstone’s talent management and cloud-based learning technologies to help streamline the process. Through Cornerstone’s customized courses, the school system will be able to build up educators’ soft skills and use learning and development programs to boost its recruitment and retention efforts.

Rounding Out Faculty Soft Skills

Being an effective educator requires certain relational and social “soft” skills, including (but not limited to) communication, critical thinking, problem-solving, moral and professional ethics and leadership skills. One study explored the importance of soft skills in the teaching profession and found that they were necessary not only for the delivery of quality teaching and management of students, but also for career development and enrichment of the students themselves.

Though some of today’s educators lack these skills, they can be learned. The UNC System will be able to inspire its educators to participate in this kind of learning using the Cornerstone Learning suite. The suite’s digital courses enable employees to hone new soft skills, like leadership, emotional intelligence and coaching, that they might otherwise have undervalued.

Using L&D Programs to Boost Recruitment, Retention and Development

Employers today value employee development because they observe its notable return on investment—profit margins could grow by as much as 24%. But beyond fiscal gains, learning and development programs increase employees’ self-esteem, create a better sense of self-direction among workers and better company-wide morale and culture.

Professionals everywhere can reap the rewards of these programs, and faculty are no different. The UNC System has decided to integrate learning and development pilot programs at a few of their campuses as an experimental and strategic initiative to boost retention and help improve their recruitment efforts. If these initial efforts are successful, the school system plans to expand the program to other campuses as well.

And UNC students stand to benefit from this initiative as well: Research by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Science concluded that student achievement can improve by as much as 21% as a result of faculty participation in well-designed professional programs.

Just what might these pilot programs look like? Using Cornerstone Learning, faculty can access courses to stay abreast of new technology skills in today’s changing digital landscape. There are also diversity and inclusion training programs that educators can use to better serve their students and foster a learning environment that feels safe and welcoming for everyone. Thanks to these types of offerings, the UNC System can provide its various organizations and employees with the tools they needed to further their development and create a more thoughtful, modernized workforce.

But the benefits don’t stop there. UNC is also integrating the Cornerstone Performance suite into the pilot programs to streamline its succession planning for employees in a highly configurable and visualized format. The solution tracks the growth and capabilities of the talent pipeline so that both employees and employers feel prepared for promotions or changing roles. UNC System’s workforce now has access to fully transparent career mobility opportunities and development training that helps further their career trajectory.

Although it’s a seemingly counterintuitive idea, a culture of continued learning and education is especially important in the education sector. With the help of Cornerstone’s solutions and learning platforms, the UNC System and others like it are making strides toward a happier, healthier and more holistic workplace for educators and their students.

Photo: Creative Commons