My Top 5 Most Impactful Learning Experiences of 2016

Christine Johnson, Cued Forward on

Since I talk a lot about finding learning experiences for your organizations, I wanted to share a few of my most impactful learning experiences in 2016.  Each of these experiences helped me add to my professional and personal repertoire of skills and provided action items I was compelled to start using immediately.  And they did not break my training budget.

Presentation on talent management led by a CEO of a manufacturing company

Being in HR, I hear about this topic in articles and presentations with many that do not offer anything new.  The CEO of this manufacturing company offered a new perspective on hiring and why she was involved in the interview process as CEO.  Looking at turnover, she concluded they had the wrong people in roles and were not asking the tough question when interviewing.  Instead of simply telling her management team, she took action.  She realigned staff, let go of the bad seeds in the organization which included a family member, and helped to recreate an interview process that not only interviewed the candidate, but gave candidates the company’s real culture experience.

Biggest takeaway:  When looking at challenges, think outside of the box for solutions and take actions faster rather than slower.  For all of the HR professionals in the room, this was great to hear from a non-HR person.

Cost: $15

Co-working group

Little did I know that when I joined my co-working group in early 2016 that this would be on my top 5 learning experiences list.  Co-working is people working together in a common space to share knowledge and ideas.  Typically, participants are self-employed or work for different industries.

My group consists of not one person in human resources.  Attendees have included a digital marketer, website developer, process improver, bee keeper, and a men’s grooming products manufacturer.  And from this group, I learned that connecting with like-minded individuals from different professional backgrounds on a regular basis can offer more opportunities and personal introductions than I ever thought.  Additionally, by listening to their stories, I could look at my own successes and failures differently.  One conversation the group had was about when is it okay to lose a customer.  We shared our own personal experiences and helped a colleague conclude that being more forceful in collections with customer who was also a friend was the best business decision for her.

Biggest takeaway: Understanding stories from different industries helps me run my business better.  Developing my co-work relationships has given me a great peer group for vetting ideas.

Cost: A cup of coffee per meeting

OSHA changes webinar

Some of you may be asking, how could this make her top 5 list?  And I agree with you, a safety-related webinar conducted by two attorneys would typically not make the list.  Yet, this webinar was engaging and jam-packed with best practices.  A large chunk of the material talked about the new rule that employers in many cases cannot automatically drug test employees after an accident.  Big news.  The presenter broke down the ruling in to manageable sized bites of information and explained the potential ramifications of failing to follow the new rule.  They took a complicated subject broke down into bits, shared stories to reinforce the concept, and offered best practices.  Could not ask for much more.

Biggest takeaway: When an established guideline is changed, understand the implications on the entire process not only the wording changes.  Find best practices to not reinvent the wheel.

Cost: Free

Online conference

An entire day-long conference online that includes a vendor hall and a networking room?  Presented by a non-profit organization that supports small business, this unique opportunity allowed me to attend a conference (and the sessions I chose to attend) from the comfort of my computer.  I listened in on sessions about developing email campaigns to understanding SEO.  When I entered the vendor hall, I was amazed that other than the free giveaways and hard sales pitches, I had access to many vendors for my business in one place.  And the networking room was a great place to connect and find potential sales partners.  I honestly was not sure what to expect with a virtual conference, but I was pleasantly surprised at the quality and variety of the programs and interaction available for networking.

Biggest takeaway:  Don’t shy away from a learning experience because is out of your learning comfort zone.  Take advantage of free learning opportunities than can grow your business.

Cost: Free

Local business leaders’ roundtable and breakfast

Being in HR for numerous years, I decided in 2016 to expose myself to training programs outside of my traditional HR learning experiences.  The leaders’ roundtable and breakfast was presented by a local chamber of commerce.  Ten local business leaders each spoke on their top ten business tips.  Not only were the tips insightful, they were great to bring back to organizations to start conversations with leadership teams.  This program was a great example of how a well-managed session can generate a lot of implementable takeaways in a short period of time.  The breakfast and program were 90 minutes.

Biggest takeaway: A small change in a business process can make a big change in business.

Cost: $35

After I put together this list, I noticed two overall themes.  First, the programs that left me with the best takeaways and implementable best practices were not expensive.  In fact, many of them were free.  Second, I succeeded in my goal of diversifying my learning out of my own industry.  I am better learner now than I was at the beginning of the year because of my exposure to different learning types, styles, and topics.  Are you or your organization ready to step out of your own learning and development comfort zones in 2017?

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