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Lessons learned: Four Ways to Spur Better Learning On-the-Job

When you’re hired, the company typically has an expectation that you’ll immediately contribute, based on the knowledge you’ve acquired from your prior job or education. I think back to my last corporate position and can say I was clearly hired for my marketing and sales expertise because I was expected to deliver results right away. However, some organizations, including the one that hired me, seemed blind to the fact that new employees also have an expectation of learning new skills.

Because the company was small, they couldn’t afford formalized training. However, they eventually started to slowly transform to a learning culture through these four techniques. Here’s my lessons learned:

 

  1. Champion the importance of on-going learning

A company can help employees understand why it’s important to consistently learn – not only for the sake of the company but for their own benefit.

 

I look at the skills I consciously tried to learn and I stretched myself out of my comfort zone to learn executive level strategy and performance management and can attest that these skills have been instrumental later in other roles.

 

  1. Promote self-learning

Not only should organizations advocate why it’s important to learn, but they should empower individuals to self-organize their learning.

 

Our small company had periodic formalized training sessions, yet what really stuck was the informal learning we did on the job. We googled new techniques to solve problems and we learned new technical skills through trial and error.

 

Reflecting back, I could have done a better job of emphasizing the benefits of informal learning, empowering my team to seek their own learning opportunities, and reinforcing that they were learning. The reality was that while our superstar employees desired more formal training, they were too busy to attend the entire formalized training sessions anyhow. Had I highlighted the continual informal learning more, I think I could have helped propel the organization’s learning culture faster.

 

  1. Develop a self-organized learning plan

One way I could have emphasized the informal learning was to have each team member create their self-organized learning plan. This could have tied in with the organization’s goals, the team and the job.

 

This would allow the company to formally recognize the learning that employees were doing and for them to record and recall the skills they were trying to learn.

 

  1. Encourage knowledge sharing

Organizations can encourage their people to use outside sources and freely share the knowledge they’ve learned with others.
We did this by attending outside conferences which were instrumental in learning new technical skills. We really struggled with how to share the knowledge, however, because back on the job we were too busy with our day-to-day tasks and working evenings to get caught up with work.

 

I think if I had introduced a six minute self-reflection for the conference attendee to synthesize what they learned and then encourage them to present the findings for four minutes at our team lunch that could have provided the foundation for cementing the conference learning as well as sharing it with others. And all in ten minutes.

 

So no matter what the size organization, these four techniques I’ve learned can help to propel individuals to advance their skills while fulfilling their needs for development.

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