Have you ever observed the difference between the training they provide in schools and the training they provide in offices? In schools, the teachers teach us so that we get promoted and leave the current class. In offices, they teach you so that you excel in your current job. There cannot be a bigger anomaly than this after we spend a lot of money in education for getting a job.
Many organizations do not even bother to teach their people. Even if their organizations take an effort to teach them, their managers are not bothered. And even if the managers are OK, many people do not have time to learn.
For organizations to be simple, it is important that people continuously improve. And for people to continuously improve, it is important that they continuously learn.
Continuous learning must be a way of life and a part of the culture of the organization. It cannot be an afterthought.
To make continuous learning a way of life, it is important that the top management takes learning seriously and shows to the junior people in the organization its importance by leading from the front. Learning should also be a part of every conversation that I had mentioned in the last chapter.
Some organizations give importance to three kinds of learning – job-related (or the ones that are critical to a person’s job like full-stack for a developer, social media skills for a marketer), functional (which are also critical but are more intangible like communication, team-work, design thinking), and leadership.
There is one more aspect of learning that many organizations miss, and which is highly essential in today’s world – emotional intelligence. Having emotionally intelligent people will make organizations simple. And organizations that conquer this talent will succeed in the world of tomorrow.
How much should you teach people? That is a tricky question, for which my answer would be wider and deeper. One of the concepts that I strongly believe in is having a T-shaped competency. Popularized by David Guest in 1991, the T-shaped competency refers to having deep expertise in one area and wide expertise in several other related areas.[i] While there have been variations of this, let us stick with the T model. Teach a person so that he or she has a deeper vertical bar and a wider horizontal bar. As they say, there are no limits to knowledge.
Also, make sure that everyone in an organization knows the organization’s products in a detailed way. They should understand the pain points of their customers. For example, McDonald’s makes it mandatory for all their people to spend time as customer executives.
It is also important to stop thinking of learning as an activity that you do by sitting in a class and listening to a lecture. There are many other ways of learning today – online courses, learning by doing a job, and even shadow learning. Unless organizations adopt all of these, continuous learning will never be a reality.
Moreover, earmark ten percent of the organization’s people to cost towards training. Nothing less will do justice if you have a visionary goal.
But one perennial thing that bothers many organizations is the time component. In a world where people are expected to do more work with each passing day, training is never a priority and sometimes not even an urgent item.
For those who ask me the question on time, I just have another question – would you stop refueling your car because you do not have time and would rather continue driving?
The organizations need to start thoroughly assessing the people on the current competencies they have and help them chart the journey to the next role they aspire to achieve. Train them for reaching those levels and not for making them do their current jobs better. And continuously put forth new technologies and competencies in their way so that they become better every day.