Do you get excited when you hear the chimes of the ice cream truck? I have seen many adults, including myself, grab a few dollars and wait for the truck to come to a curb nearby to get a strawberry shortcake or a snow cone. For many, the ice cream truck not only offers cool treats, but memories of our own childhood and the joy of summer. The sights and sounds of the ice cream trigger positive feelings in many of us.
Now think about your workplace, do you get the same positive feeling when you hear the word “training” or see words like “team development” in an invite to a meeting? Or do these words trigger negative thoughts like “no time,” “boring,” “no value,” or “no one asked me”? If it is the latter, your organization may not be inviting you to be an active participant in the learning and development process or not doing a good job of marketing the value of your learning experience. Whether you are the employee who cringes when you hear these words or a business leader who is in charge of rolling out and managing the process, there is help for you to start changing how everyone views learning opportunities in your organization.
Organizational learning is dynamic and agile
First, it is important that employees understand that learning has changed. This may not be news to most of you, but maybe it is your wake-up call. No longer is the day that the employer is the sole owner of learning and development. With the rapidly changing worlds within and outside of our organizations, learning is no longer simply attending a class, receiving a certificate of completion, and never thinking about what was learned again. Learning in today’s workplace is real time. A successful learning environment engages employees to actively participate in their own development. Employees are often encouraged to seek out learning opportunities and discuss the feasibility of the option with their manager. Learning is personalized. No longer should human resources alone be the gatekeeper of learning in your organization.
Training is no longer a singular event, but a continuous learning path in organizations. Many learning experiences are on the job. For other learning opportunities, technology has enabled organizations to provide microlearning in five-minute learning bursts. Phone aps, web-based learning, and podcasts allow for learning opportunities that are not tied to a classroom. Mentoring and volunteering are newer ways of enhancing learning and development programs without direct dollar costs. In the past, finding the learning opportunity may have been the biggest challenge. Today, knowledge transfer and predicting future learning needs for jobs that do not exist today are two of the biggest challenges.
But some learning remains the same
Some training is required. Period. Not open to discussion. Because of government regulatory rules, forklift operators must be trained to operate the equipment and certain states require supervisors to go through mandatory sexual harassment training. These are only two examples of the many training requirements that are not options. Failure to comply with these types of training could result in an organization incurring fines and bad press. While there have been improvements in the methods of delivery and content of compliance training, it is sometimes still a dreaded, but necessary component of organizational learning programs.
Two-way communication is key
The key to changing learning experiences for both employers and employees in the workplace is communication in an open environment. No matter the size of the organization, employers need to communicate their philosophy around employee learning and development, expectations, and processes to achieve successful learning experiences. Employees need to communicate their own personal growth objectives and ask questions when they are unclear of the path that the employer may be laying out or the competencies they need to acquire for their current roles or growth opportunities. Millennials already understand this; they view an organization’s capacity to provide development as important when choosing and staying with a job. For most organizations, offering some form a learning and development program is no longer an option, but a business need.
Remember the ice cream truck horn and the excitement that surrounded its pending arrival. If an organization begins working on a learning culture and employees understand the importance of continuous learning for their own personal and professional development, maybe seeing the words “soft skills training” won’t trigger feelings of doom and despair, but of contentment. Kind of like the way you feel after you have eaten that ice cream truck treat.