Learning and development in the workplace is crucial. Sometimes I really feel that work is a bit like school, but for adults. Sure it’s not traditional classroom teaching, but nonetheless we learn a lot. From projects, colleagues, companies, and our own mistakes… All of it creates an ideal learning environment for us to grow and develop as professionals.
And once you’ve worked for a few years, you finally understand a bit better what people mean when they say “X many years of experience”. They don’t just mean years spent practicing your trade, they’re also referring to all that baggage comes from your “schooling”.
If this is truly the case, then learning & development should be made a cornerstone of any workplace. In fact, it should be regularly included in people’s performance plans, discussed with their managers and measured by companies.
Unfortunately, the reality is companies often say they encourage learning & development but when you get there it falls short of your expectations. For example, there might be no formal way to get your learning & development plan signed off. Or, there may be no official budget – making it hard to know what you can do. Or, you might quite simply be too busy with work to take time off to get some training.
Of course there are exceptions, some companies have a good reputation for training their employees. But we’re not all fortunate enough to work for them.
Whether your company doesn’t have a good L&D plan and you want to help, or whether you’re in charge of L&D but aren’t sure where to start, it doesn’t have to be complicated.
Below are my top 10 simple and cost effective ways you can invest in L&D and encourage people to be curious, learn on the job, and continuously develop.
- Books – buy a few business related books and build up a library. Over time, employees will probably have their own suggestions so you can continue growing it. Ensure people know they are available for borrowing and encourage them to read them.
- Leverage existing skill sets (internal ones). You never know who may be hiding amongst your ranks. People have a variety of talents beyond their job description, that they may be able to share with others. You may have people who are used to delivering trainings and would be effective teachers. But beyond that, people may have in depth knowledge of a certain topic that would be incredibly useful to share within the company. This provides the opportunity for people to feel valued, all while saving on bringing in an external trainer.
- Use your network i.e. friends, colleagues passing through town etc. Similarly to the above, you or other employees might have friends in town or passing by, that have an interesting skillset. It may be a great opportunity to ask them to come into the office and talk about what they do. It could be anything from an informal chat over lunch, to a Q&A session, to a full blown presentation.
- Get people to present back learnings to their colleagues. If you decide to send people on a course or to a conference, get them to present back. Encourage them to share findings, key takeaways, interesting presenters to watch etc. This puts them in a learning mindset, and allows others who weren’t fortunate enough to go – to still get something out of it. In some cases conferences offer video packages: this is a perfect opportunity to organize group viewing activities.
- “Show & tell” – informal trainings. Similarly to point 2, you can leverage internal skillsets for informal trainings. It doesn’t always have to be related to work, but it still may be inspiring and spark an interest with colleagues. At my current company Impraise, we organize what we call “show & tell” twice a month. Colleagues are free to present on a topic of their choice to the rest of the team. This encourages curiosity as well as a learning mindset, whilst giving colleagues the opportunity to get to know each other better. It also helps you improve your presentation skills, and think about what it takes to deliver a meaningful talk.
- Develop a mentoring scheme. It’s a no brainer than mentoring is a great way to teach. More junior staff members will always need support as they learn the ropes of the job and get acquainted with the organization. But even more seasoned professionals will always need support and appreciate having someone to turn to for advice.
- Free digital trainings like Facebook Blueprint, Twitter Flight School or Google Garage. Yes free trainings do still exist! Many of the social networks offer their own free trainings so you can better understand how to use their tools. Of course this can be quite self-promotional, but it teaches you some good basics.
- Case studies: highlighting work from other teams and offices. This might not jump out as an L&D opportunity, but studying work other teams and offices have done can be a source of inspiration. Looking at how they approached a project, the methodology they used, and hearing about their key learnings can be a great opportunity.
- Content curation: sending a round up of relevant industry news to colleagues. Again this may not immediately jump out as an L&D opportunity, but the fact is everyone needs to stay up to date with what’s happening in their industry. Sending out newsletters helps keep people curious and ensures they are renewing their knowledge regularly.
- Following industry events (i.e. Cannes Lions) Nowadays there are a million and one conferences on all kinds of topics. There are also awards and much more. Staying up to date with the news coming out of those events is also a way of learning. They often produce video summaries or short interviews you can watch – so you can get the most important news without having to be present.
If you start by trying all of the above, I can assure you people will already have a lot to think about and learn. Of course, investing in the above takes time, but it’s worth it if people feel that their L&D is being taken care of.
If on top of that, you can also provide a list of interesting and qualitative trainings happening nearby, that’s even better! The real cherry on top? Making sure that each person’s learning & development plan is tied to their career path.
But let’s take it easy, and start with the few small things you can start doing to make a difference. Don’t forget to invest in your employees’ professional development.