In today’s service economy, organizations need employees to constantly learn, share information, coach each other and think on their feet. The more employees know (and how to use what they know), the better they can respond and perform in a changing workplace. Helping them learn is a strategic management responsibility.
Here is a great line I hear a lot from many educators: “Telling isn’t teaching.” But telling is the way many managers approach teaching and guiding their employees. There is no sustainable learning in this approach. All effective learning is a partnership between teacher and learner – manager and employee – that specifically focuses on the needs, motivations and values of the employee.
Consider these three ways for managers to become better teachers:
1. Stop talking and start listening.
Listening allows you to understand where an employee is in his or her skill development and subject knowledge. Also listen for the employee’s talents, values and interests – what inspires and motivates the employee. Knowledge without motivation gets little done. For learning to stick, employees must emotionally connect to both the learning and the reason for learning.
2. Work with employees to develop a learning plan.
This mutually-determined plan should be based on three things: what employees need to be successful in their day-to-day work, what will advance the employee in the future and an area that is of personal interest to the employee. This makes it practical and personal (and comes from listening to the employee). Include completion dates, incentives for completion (if any) and planned improvements in performance. Creating the plan together is critical for its success.
3. Get good at performance feedback.
In addition to a formal learning plan, on-the-job training must be part of employee education. Spend more performance time with employees to assess their work as it happens; reinforce successful behaviors, train and coach unsuccessful behaviors. On-the-job training is accelerated training as it reviews both skills and skill applications – what to do and how to do it. It's effective because it's real-time learning.
In a world where information doubles every couple of years, creating a workplace that constantly learns is critical to its success. And behind a learning workplace are managers who are adept at listening, observing, coaching and teaching their employees to constantly improve, invent, add value and make a difference.
Jay Forte is a nationally ranked thought leader and President of Humanetrics. Jay guides organizations – their leaders and managers – in how to attract, hire and retain today’s best talent. He is the author of “Fire Up! Your Employees and Smoke Your Competition” and “The Greatness Zone – Know Yourself, Find Your Fit, Transform The World.” Jay is a member of SHRM, ASTD, the National Speakers Association and the Florida Speakers Association, and you can follow him on Twitter.