Lots of employees dread company education. They dread it because often we, as educators, don’t create compelling or engaging programs. Nor do we explain the reasoning behind the materials we use in those programs. Sometimes employees feel they're being force-fed management’s agenda without any apparent connection or value to their day. But in talking with
employees, I find they don’t actually dread learning, per se. They just dread what they're presented with, and how.
There is some company-specific education employees must have: training on computer systems, operational or service processes, compliance issues, etc. But what if instead of providing company-wide skill training, you empowered (or required) each employee to identify two skills they need to master over time — say, several months — then give them the responsibility to find their own materials to learn it. Trainers could help by giving employees a list of suggested resources and places to look, but ultimately the employee would have to come up with their own research.
There's a lot to like about giving employees a more active role in their own learning. By leaving this process up to the worker, three things happen:
- The employee becomes more vested in learning the skill. They intentionally identify programs that present meaningful job information and in a method that they prefer. Employees find greater (practical) meaning in what they learn.
- The employee has the ability to customize their learning — to assess specifically what they need to improve their performance — rather than be forced to participate in education that is defined by the organization. One-size-fits-all education programs rarely influence sustainable results. Playing a part in identifying and selecting education holds the employee accountable for assessing his performance challenges and owning the process to address and solve them.
- The employee has the flexibility to complete the education on their schedule, rather than being interrupted at what may be a busy time. A recurring complaint about education programs is that they interrupt daily work. Allowing learning flexibility enables employees to fit their learning at meaningful and effective points in their day or week; work performance does not suffer.
I find more and more employees want this freedom, and I'm inclined to allow them to have it — so long as they are held accountable for completing and using the education they select. I also find that when many employees search for meaningful education topics and programs, they introduce the company to resources that were not previously considered or known.
With the magnitude and flexibility of existing online resources, employees have learning options — and training professionals have teaching options — they never had before. Involving the employee in defining their own learning plan and choosing their resources allows training professionals the ability to focus on higher-impact education and organization-specific procedures. In short, this allows the education team to focus, get more done with less, and influence employees to be more personally connected to their education and success.
Jay Forte is a nationally ranked thought leader and President of Humanetrics. Jay guides organizations — their leaders and managers — in how to attract, hire and retain today’s best talent. He is the author of Fire Up! Your Employees and Smoke Your Competition and The Greatness Zone – Know Yourself, Find Your Fit, Transform The World. Jay is a member of SHRM, ASTD, the National Speakers Association and the Florida Speakers Association. Follow him on Twitter.
Image by Casie Yoder used under Creative Commons via Flickr user aflcio.
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