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Not only is institutionalized competency of active learning a strategic imperative but it is also a powerful fringe benefit for your employees. One of biggest problems for growing organizations in last few years has been challenge of attracting and retaining good employees. One of things that attract employees to an organization is their perception that organization is headed for success and is willing to invest in its employees along way. Helping your employees gain new skills or deepen their current capabilities is a powerful way to show your commitment to future and your investment in your employees. Helping them learn to learn is viewed as a powerful fringe benefit.
So creating this learning capability within your organization and instilling capability at every level in organization provides a double benefit: it's both a strategic advantage as well as a powerful fringe benefit.
How to begin...
This all sounds good, but how do you do it? Here are four simple steps to start transformation.
No. 1. Develop a compelling vision for company's future and show your employees how they can be a part of it.
A vision is a description of what company can be in future. By describing a future that is different then today's you provide a reason for every individual to grow: organization needs them to become something better than they are now. The difference between your vision for future and your current situation is clearly an opportunity for different pieces of business to grow and expand.
One of core principles upon which active learning is based is this: that adults don't learn unless they want to eliminate some pain or achieve some gain. As long as everyone is content with status quo there can be no serious growth. Your job, if you're going to build this capability of active learning, is first to instill some discontent.
The individuals within your organization must want to be something that they are not now. The more challenging and exciting is that vision, more likely it is that individual will want to hop aboard and be motivated to change. Here's a great example. Steve Case, CEO of America Online, has been quoted as espousing this vision:
"We want to be most valuable and respected company on earth." How'd you like to be a part of that organization? That'll quicken your pulse.
So, challenge organization with your vision of future, and see to it that every individual knows that you expect him or her to grow in their job, so that they can be a part of it.
No. 2. It is not enough merely to instill vision, you must also enable learning. That means that you must invest time and money in learning process. That can mean something as a simple as creating a budget item for "training and learning" and allocating money for this process. It can also mean creating policies that reimburse employees for job related learning. It can mean investing in outside trainers, classes and courses, and continuous growth programs. It can also mean policies which allow for released time for seminars, retreats and training programs.
No. 3. Begin to instill this capability in your organization by mandating personal growth. Write into every job description a phrase that says every employee is expected to continually grow in their capabilities to do this job better as well as to expand their knowledge of other jobs within organization.
Make learning a strategic initiative. Manage it like he would any other strategic issue. Give it lots of conversation. Mentioned it in newsletters and memos. Write it up in annual report. Talk about it at employee meetings. Create learning lists for individuals and small groups. This is a list of things that they need to learn in order to do their job more effectively. Let everyone know from top to bottom that continuous personal improvement, i.e. active learning, is a necessary part of everyone's employment in your organization.
Let everyone know that coasting along with last year's knowledge and last year's capabilities is no longer acceptable.
No. 4. Lastly, be a model of kind of behavior you expect everyone with an your organization to mimic. Let people see you learning and growing. Let them see you invest in your own development. Let them see you go to seminars, be involved in CEO round table groups, read books, periodicals, and go to training courses. Become a model for kind of active learner you want your whole organization to be.
Implement these four strategies, and you'll begin to instill number one competency for success in Information Age into your company. You'll begin to turn your organization into a learning company
Complete this quick assessment to determine how well your organization has embraced active learning. Answer Yes or No to each question. Do you have a budget for training/learning?
Is budgeted amount larger than 3 % of payroll?
Do all employees know that they are expected to continually improve their capabilities?
Are employees regularly evaluated on how well they are learning and gaining new skills?
Does your organization have a compelling vision of what it could become?
Are all your employees aware of that vision?
Does each employee understand how he/she can contribute to attaining that vision?
Does each employee understand benefit to them for moving company toward that vision?
Do you encourage employees to expand their skills via reimbursement or released time programs?
Do you model kind of continuous personal growth that you expect of them? If you answered yes...
9 or 10 times, you are in great shape.
7 or 8 times, you are well on your way. Focus on adding missing pieces.
5 or 6 times, you are off to a good start but you need to spend more time moving your organization toward active learning.
Under 5 times, you are lagging behind. Time to get serious about building this competency into your organization. If you would like assistance structuring a learning program to suit specific needs of your company, you can reach Dave Kahle at 800-331-1287 or via email at email@example.com.
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