Every once in a while, the universe conspires to give business leaders reminders that they need employees who are fast on their feet when encountering new challenges and new problems. We’ve all had plenty of those reminders during the Coronavirus pandemic. Along the way, we’ve all been tasked with learning myriad new communication platforms, new regulations, and new protocols. In some cases, we’ve essentially had to invent entire new approaches to how we run our businesses. And in such times, you quickly see those who are actively engaged in bettering themselves through continuous learning and those who flounder in an attempt to adjust. Whether it’s the colleague moved to a new team because an entire revenue stream has suddenly dried up or the guy who can’t figure out where the “mute” button is on Zoom, a crisis like this one has laid bare our need to adapt through effectively learning new skills and techniques. For the truth is that you can’t think innovatively if you’re not deeply knowledgeable about how your company currently works and if you don’t possess a mind that is constantly on the lookout for new ideas.
Business never stands still
No part of our corporate learning programs is a “Set it and forget it” affair. That’s just not how people grow. Not only do we all benefit from “reinforcement” on the things we’ve learned, the business world does not remain still. If your business weren’t changing, you’d quickly become irrelevant. Technologies are continuously evolving; software introduces new features; you produce new products or offer new services; regulations change; businesses shift strategy as old markets lose value and new markets emerge. Your employees have to keep up with that incredible pace of change. They have to learn.
Helping them learn requires a creative but disciplined learning program that’s been carefully designed by those knowledgeable about how people learn. But it also means that leaders must be purposeful about creating cultures that encourage continuous learning—on the job and off. A good leader recognizes the value of having a workforce that is eager to learn, one that gets excited about a book they’ve read or a new concept or approach in which they see value for the business. Such a culture celebrates learning at all levels and implements opportunities for employees to grow as problem-solvers and critical thinkers.
Right now, in the heart of crisis, rather than say “I’ve got too many fires to put out,” instead ask yourself if your company is prepared to meet the future—near and long-term—without a foundation of strong thinkers who are committed to continuous learning. Ask yourself:
- Are we clear on the actual learning needs of the organization (both current and future)?
- Is our training group composed mostly of subject matter experts (SMEs) or does it also include associated with expertise in adult learning and instructional design?
- Do we create opportunities and incentives to reward learning beyond the immediate skills and behaviors of their current positions?
- Am I modelling continuous learning for my colleagues and employees?
If you’ve answered “no” to any of these questions, you’ve got important changes to make. The future of your business will depend upon it.