Continuing education is a huge part of any company’s success.
In certain industries, such as teaching, health professions, real estate and lawyers, there are mandated requirements in some regions for a certain number of professional development days to be taken each year and courses that must be upgraded to maintain license requirements.
But in the average small to medium-sized business, where learning and development is often foisted to the human resources department as an add-on duty, the situation is less formal and more apt to fall between the cracks of ensuring new employees are oriented to their new jobs and answering vacation requests and arranging paperwork for transfers are parental leaves.
If your industry does not have laws requiring your professionals to take regular skills updating, how can you still make it a critical part of your mandate? You know that failure to do so can cause people to start falling behind the pace of technological change.
One of the best ways to foster interest in growth and development is to frequently (at least once every couple of weeks) to send employees some reference to a way to engage with learning.
Here are 6 specific ways you can encourage your employees to stay aware of industry trends and changing processes and thinking about aspects of their work:
- Use Twitter. Identify a few thought leaders in your industry, research their Twitter feeds, and see if they are offering up a steady stream of good ideas or thoughts about your field of work. When you find three whose tweets are highly relevant, let your employees know that you are following them and encourage them to follow you as well. If you see something especially noteworthy, remark on it to your employees and ask for their feedback.
- Blogs by thought leaders in your industry can stimulate thought and discussion and prompt employees to consider new ways to do things. Do a bit of research and come up with one or two bloggers that offer great insight into your industry and let your teams know about them. If there is a great blog, post the link to remind people.
- Speaking of blogs, it is also a great idea for you to set up your own blog, even if it is only distributed in-house on your Intranet. Promote a culture of learning by trying to send short (3-4 paragraph blogs) regularly with quotes, news items or ideas from employees that you’d like to explore.
- Reach out to experts who you could never have the budget to pay fro travel and a whole day’s seminar, and ask if they will give you 1/2 hour of their time for a Skype call. Tell them what you want to talk about, and ensure that your employees have a few questions ready.
- Don’t reinvent the wheel. Suppose that you have to prepare a course on inter-office communication or team-building or efficient project management. Scour the web for a good webinar on the subject and bring your team together to take it and share their comments and responses afterwards.
- Encourage your employees to network by joining LinkedIn groups related to your industry. Invite them to share their responses to different trends they see being discussed.
All of these initiatives take time, and the excuse that there is no time seems valid. But failing to encourage employees to keep up their skills will take more time in the long run because they will be more resistant to change and unaware that the rest of the industry is passing by.
This type of spontaneous learning reminders works especially well for companies who have a lot of people working from home or remote locations or in different time zones.
They allow you to make learning a daily conversation instead of a once a year overload of information.