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ATD Blog

Turning Pages, Building Skills: The Role of Reading in Employee Learning


In today’s ever-evolving professional landscape, continuous learning and development is critical. One of the most timeless and effective tools for fostering growth among employees and cultivating leadership skills is through books. Beyond the text lies a wealth of knowledge, insights, and transformative potential that can shape individuals into exceptional organizational contributors and leaders.

Let’s explore some reasons why incorporating reading into learning and development initiatives is beneficial:

  • Skill enhancement: Reading books related to an employee’s field or industry can help them stay updated with the latest trends, technologies, and best practices. For instance, a software developer could read books on programming languages or software architecture to improve their technical skills.
  • Cost-effective learning: Books can be a cost-effective way to access high-quality information compared to formal training programs or courses. This is especially beneficial for employees in resource-constrained environments.
  • Diverse perspectives and critical thinking: The act of reading exposes employees to a wide array of viewpoints and ideas. Engaging with diverse perspectives challenges individuals to think critically, question assumptions, and develop a well-rounded understanding of complex topics. This skill is indispensable for problem-solving and innovation, allowing employees to approach challenges with creativity and adaptability.
  • Self-paced learning and flexibility: The flexibility of books as learning tools cannot be overstated. Employees can embark on their learning journey at their own pace, catering to their individual schedules and preferences. Whether it’s during a daily commute, lunch break, or dedicated reading time, the accessibility of books allows employees to make the most of their time and integrate learning seamlessly into their lives.


Ways to encourage reading for learning and development

  • Create a club: Form reading groups where employees can discuss books related to leadership, personal growth, or industry trends. This encourages collaboration and shared learning.
  • Cover the cost of the book(s): Removing the financial burden from your employees by covering the cost of the print or e-book often results in a higher likelihood that they will actually read books. When employees know that their employer has invested in their learning, they may feel more accountable for reading and absorbing the material. This can lead to more proactive learning habits and better application at work.
  • Incorporate reading into learning programs and initiatives: Integrate reading assignments into learning and development programs to ensure participants engage with diverse perspectives and ideas.
  • Lead by example: Encourage leadership to share the books they’re reading and the insights they’ve gained. This can inspire others to follow suit. Leaders sharing their reading experiences can create a culture of learning within the organization.

The professional landscape may be constantly changing, but books have consistently remained one of the primary sources for learning and development. Books aren’t going anywhere, and one could argue, right now they are more important than ever.

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