I’d like to take a moment and talk about on the job learning. We’re in a period of time where learning and development is now the greatest currency a company has to offer. Consider that for a moment. Companies are facing the toughest times they’ve had to worry about for the last 20 years. The number of people available to work outweighs the number of positions available. The options for candidates looking for jobs are far from easy, but they have options open to them. The future is not bright, and we’re likely to be facing two years (at least) of hard times before things get better.
Ok, so let’s go back to that statement. Learning and development is your greatest currency. You are in a position where you have to batten down the hatches and keep the business growing and going. But you can’t restrict yourself to that. Someone/some team needs to take on the responsibility for making sure learning continues across the business so that you don’t get complacent. Complacency will kill in this environment. It does not just sit with your HR team (or L&D team if you’re lucky enough to have that) to help it to happen.
You need to make it happen on a day to day basis. There are ample opportunities to attend free events to get you thinking about the right things. Many training providers are holding free taster sessions that you can go along to and get some insight into what they’re talking about. There are also numerous webinars and the likes that are available. TED videos are brilliant for hearing from true thought leaders and experts in their field.
How can these translate to day to day activities?
Launch an internal learning forum. Give people the time and space where they can share the latest learning they have received and a discussion can be had about it. It should be voluntary, but open to all. The content should not be restricted to work related topics. Good ideas can come from anywhere, and from anyone.
Use social networks to share content internally. This happens a lot already through the likes of Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook where people are creating there own personal learning networks. But are you doing the same internally? There’s a lot of content readily available to be shared and it’s being read by people at all hours of the day. Give them a place to share and allow others to experience it. An internal blog, internal social network, even internal email distribution list, are all good ways to make this happen.
Give the time for people to have downtime. This sounds really counter-intuitive. You can’t make your people work at 100% all week all of the time. They’ll burn out, and it happens all of the time. They need time and space to use their brains to do other things with their time. Bob might enjoy reading journals but needs the time. Bert might enjoy running but doesn’t have the time. Billy might want to do some market research but has too much to do. Becky might like to just have a quiet lunch but her to do list is too long. People need the time to be distant. It will give them more space to handle the stresses of a hard economy and allow them to be productive in their time.
Listen to what they want to do and make it happen. People are great are seeing what they need in order to be more efficient. Take the time to listen to these concerns and ideas, and figure out a way to make it happen. Good ideas can come from anywhere, and from anyone. This mantra should be the most prevalent idea flowing in businesses right now.
Have peer to peer discussion sessions. This is particularly relevant for management, but can be equally so for those with particular skills (e.g. project managers). People need to sound off and hear what others have to say about their situation. It’s often enough to just say it out loud. Our own thinking can then allow us to form new ways of thinking and build new ways of doing things. Advice from others allows us to debate an idea and form opinions on how to do something. At its best, it could form the basis for managing change well.
Mistakes happen. Don’t chastise. Don’t criticise. Be constructive. Help others learn more. Make it better next time. Be respectful.
Learning and development is now your greatest currency as a company. Don’t flaunt it. If you want to retain your talent, engage them in the L&D strategy. Forget the old guard thinking that the Exec know best, or the L&D team knows best. Learners will learn how they want, when they want, and where they want. All you can do is try facilitate that learning. Your talent is eager to be the best they can be. Help them get there. Your new candidates will want to know they’re coming into a company where they can be developed. They’re most likely eager to join you because of the opportunities it holds for them. This means that you need to be doing things that helps them to see you have something unique to offer them.