We talk about ongoing learning and development for people all the time but I believe many managers only pay lip service to genuine learning opportunities. Many times, an employee is on a training course to ‘tick the box’ to comply with some ‘magical’ company development plan.
We all need to make learning a key part of what we do in business. Not only does this provide useful technical skills but it helps to boost the firm’s culture in a positive way. There is no doubt in my mind that a huge amount of training is totally wasted with no tangible outcomes besides having a ‘jolly’ at the firm’s expense.
A few suggestions on building learning as a key part of your activities:
You should always talk to your colleagues about how your learning is genuinely boosting your skills and expertise. You have finished a course on variable speed drives/pump cavitation problems/corrosion so that you can troubleshoot current problems or design with the latest concepts. Show everyone real benefits that you have achieved and motivate them to engage in a similar journey.
On the other hand, if you come back from a training course with the observation that it was ‘interesting’ it is likely that it was a total waste of money and time. You need to show real tangible benefits from the training or education. Something that will benefit not only you but the firm.
Don’t hide failures but learn from them. A great way of learning huge amounts is via analysis of current projects that may have failed or didn’t deliver the results everyone expected. Do a detailed assessment of what happened with the failed project and ensure everyone learns from it. A failure is often a key pathway to a successful outcome. Certainly, a great way of learning.
Make it easy to engage in learning or training courses. When someone goes on a training course make sure they are supported while they are away. Nothing is more disconcerting than having one’s phone ring for urgent help with troubleshooting of that pesky conveyer belt tramp iron magnet while you are on a course.
Training and development isn’t a comfortable experience. Ensure that people engaging in learning know that it may be a challenging and demanding experience. Learning about new technologies and approaches can be tough especially when you have to challenge and change old approaches in undertaking a project. This may cause some angst and uncertainty but this is all part of the learning process.
Freshen up your work experience. Another great way to learn huge amounts is to join new projects with unfamiliar challenges and where you are expected to draw on new expertise or perhaps move to to a new location.
Thanks to Kristi Hedges of Georgetown University/Harvard Business Review for some thoughtful commentary.
I like this old Chinese Proverb (from Alice Fonda-Marsland): A man who asks is a fool for five minutes. A man who never asks is a fool for life.
Yours in engineering learning
Mackay’s Musings – 19th September’18 #679