Getting the most “bang for your buck” from continuous learning

 

An investment in knowledge pays the best returns – Benjamin Franklin.

As a past learning and development manager I have a particular passion for the importance of continuous learning and believe the quote above says it best. 

Think about it, how many companies are considered financially successful, but anyone in the know will tell you that the company does not develop its employees. What does that say about the company? How do you respond to this? Is that company not similar to an individual successfully investing, and making, money but never spending any of it on their own personal development? It is easy for us to criticize but maybe our first response would be to look at whether we are developing ourselves. 

The exciting thing about this is that the advent of digital communication has provided us with an enormous mix of channels to receive training. No more do we have to sit through boring presentations, write an exam or study for four years to start building expertise in any number of topics. Now the thought leaders are within reach and we, as learners, have access to a variety of platforms and perspectives around their chosen topics. Continuous self-improvement is now, more than ever, easier and mandatory as everyone has more access to a once limited resource.  

The only restriction is the amount of time and money that you would like to invest in your future. In order to help you make the best choice I have compiled a few pointers on choosing the right initiatives to support your journey of continuous improvement. Remember you can use this to evaluate all of the initiatives you are interested in. Continuous improvement is not about doing a one day course once a year. 

Tips for choosing a tool to support your continuous improvement:

  1. Communication channels are important as they keep the course interesting. Ensure that there is a mix of how the content is communicated. Some of these channels could include webinars or video calls, podcasts or recorded content, manuals or training notes. 
  2. Make sure that there is enough overlap between your learning style and the channels used in the training. Whether you are an auditory, visual, social or any other form of learner, always ensure that the course is well suited to your preferred ways of learning. 
  3. Make sure that the content is stretched over a period of time. In order to really absorb the content it is often best to learn a few details and practice them before moving onto the next lesson. This modular approach also facilitates using the training as reference material. 
  4. Social learning is important. Learning from others, whether commenting on a blog or sharing learnings on Facebook groups or even being on a shared WhatsApp group, there should be more than one voice. Ensure that you have an opportunity to soundboard with others or have access to questions other individuals have asked. 
  5. Be sure that you have a firm grasp on your training requirements. While training is always valuable, it can get a bit pricey so be sure that you attend the right training for the right reasons. Also, be sure to see where you can leverage training that will count towards CPD points. That way you not only be developing yourself but will be doing it in alignment with the relevant professional bodies.  
  6. Learn from a credible and listen-worthy facilitator. Before choosing training do check out the facilitator(s). Be sure you understand their background and their credentials. You want to be sure they are worth listening to and will have a lot of knowledge and experience to share. 

I hope that the list assists you on making some great selections to start, or continue, you on your development journey. Please feel free to reach out and let me know if you have other pointers on how to choose personal development initiatives. I can be found at innocente@performforward.com, or follow me on LinkedIn

For small business owners one such source of training is the Business Solutions Simplified course which is presented by Noble Group’s founder Renate Jute.

 

Part 2: How larger organizations detract from employee passion and purpose

I recently presented a workshop on passion and productivity (see video here) where I explored what happens to employees’ purpose when businesses scale headcount but not “heart count”.

In my previous post, I challenged business leaders to rethink how they approach human performance by creating a synergy between business objectives and productivity – and I argued that purpose should be the core driver of both. But what happens to this sense of purpose in larger and highly regulated companies?

Background: Transactional Analysis

To understand how employees respond in the workplace, one can apply Eric Berne’s theory of Transactional Analysis to the employee experience.

Dr Berne theorised that in any human interaction there are three main ego states at play in each participant: the parent, the adult, and the child. Each individual has the capacity to access any of these three states during an interaction and their choice dictates how the other person(s) will respond. So for example if someone felt they were being scolded they would respond from the child ego state. Or, if they felt they were not being listened to they would respond like a frustrated parent. For a more detailed understanding of the theory watch this video.

But what does this mean for us as in business?

Dynamic in larger companies

The responses of these ego states can explain why employees respond in different ways. When we position messages in a way that takes away people’s freedom to perform; when we take away their power and their purpose and leave them with the ‘thou shalts’ we are treating them like children. It is then that we elicit behaviour that reflects that of a rebellious child.

Imagine for a moment that you work at a company where suddenly one day, without too much notice, you are told that it is mandatory to wear a uniform. You never wore one before and the nature of your work doesn’t require you to do so. What would happen? Research suggests people will slowly start to come up with creative ways to break the rule and get out of wearing a uniform.

This parent vs child pattern is often seen in large companies which are highly regulated and where employee’s individual freedoms are curtailed without much consideration of the individuals. Normally the pattern of communication is top-down, and reminiscent of “parental”.  Passion and purpose is sacrificed in the process as employees move to child mode.

The ego states and small business

In contrast, when we look at a small business, we see a lot of the spontaneous child and adult at play. In a small business, you can do what you are good at; you can focus on your strengths and your natural talents. That’s why small businesses work so well – people are in love with what they are doing and free to perform according to their strengths. And because they are left to do what they’re good at, they automatically take responsibility for themselves and they don’t need supervision.

Now, I am not saying that there should be neither rules nor structure in business. I am saying though that if we could understand how we as individuals relate to each other and drive the behaviour of others, we can learn how to get the best out of every communication. We can learn to bring about adult-to-adult conversations. Once you understand how and why people respond to the same communication in different ways, you can start to play with your modes of communication to get the most out of your workforce. Understanding behaviour is of the utmost importance when it comes to building a company based on passion and purpose.

Have you had a similar experience in your workplace? Let me know via email or in the comments below. To learn more, visit www.performforward.com.

Sign up for the Passion to Productivity workshop.

Learn More about Transactional Analysis with this article.

Part 1: When great performers go bad

In my previous post I relayed the story of the business owner who was lamenting the lack of passion and purpose among his employees. He couldn’t understand the drop-off in productivity and performance from employees who had previously been super-stars. This is the true nemesis of the business owner. Poor performance is poor performance and there are mechanisms to deal with that but what happens when great performers go bad? Why does it happen? How long does it last? How do you fix it?

In my day-to-day consulting activities a substantial part of my discussions with business owners, CEO’s and HR managers focus on people performance issues. Most often these focus around a few common themes which, along with the example above, include the following:

·     Why is there so much politics? When we were a smaller group we had less and accomplished more.

·     I don’t understand why [insert employee name] is so difficult to get along with. It was easier when we could all make decisions together.

·     We made more money and we were much more innovative when we were smaller and less of a “business”.

·     When we were a smaller group everyone just worked well together, we were going to take over the industry and reshape it. Now we battle to get everyone to work together even if we have the skills.

·     Why is everyone waiting for a handout? What happened to everyone’s sense of ownership?

My personal feeling is that as business people we are very good at scaling businesses and ensuring the basics are covered. We make certain that there is enough cashflow, the correct infrastructure is in place, we have enough employees to cover the increased workload. In common parlance the latter can be referred to as appropriately scaling headcount. My sense is that we are failing at scaling “heart count”. We are good at ensuring that we have employees available to do the work but we don’t scale companies in a way that ensures that those employees can bring their hearts and minds along for the journey.

If the above sounds familiar I would like to ask you to think of a time before things changed. A time when everyone was optimally productive. Was it a time before rapid growth in the business? Was it a time before a major shift occurred in the business’s offerings? Was a new management structure coming into place? If so, could that have been the cause of the change? My workshop focusses on what goes wrong when we don’t scale “heart count” along with businesses, but simultaneously I can tell you that some of these issues occur at other phases of growth as well.

This is what my Passion and Productivity workshop is about. It asks how we can ensure that great performers don’t go bad. How do we ensure that they have purpose and passion as well as productivity while we continually scale our businesses in a variety of ways. View the short introductory video. (A shout-out to Urvesh Rama from www.urphotography.co.za for the video footage.)

Over the next few weeks I will continue posting snippets from the workshop, both in video and in blogs, to help you find out how you can address this issue in your organization.

Have you had a similar experience in your workplace? Let me know via email or in the comments below. To learn more, visit www.performforward.com.

 

The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me!

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

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