Do you recall people asking you why you wanted to go to college? Many people asked me why I wanted to go to college and my reply was always the same, "I want to learn how to learn so I can keep learning all my life. I enjoy learning and want to be great at learning anything I decide I want to know." That belief has served me well!
Since I left college, the world changed and the need to keep learning increased dramatically. Yet how we educate young people hasn’t kept pace with the rest of the world.
Today I talked with a high school student required to read an article and memorize facts. He doesn’t understand why the information is or will be important to him. The information is easily found on the internet anytime he'd want it.
Instead of forcing people to learn irrelevant facts that can be looked up in seconds on the internet, let’s focus on teaching people how they learn best. Each of us has our own learning style. When we understand that and work with what is natural for us, we learn better.
Until educators change their focus, employers will need to fill the gap. But how? What does your company do to keep your employees learning? How do you overcome resistance to new technologies or inability to problem-solve on the job? What strategies are you using to encourage innovation and individual growth?
I would love to learn from you about what works with your team. If you need suggestions, here are 4 strategies that I’ve used successfully:
- Identify areas where new learning is a priority. Keep the focus on what’s most important right now and avoid overwhelming your employees with multiple new initiatives.
- Recognize that your employees learn differently. You can’t expect that a single webinar training will get everyone up to speed. Some people may grasp the new information quickly, but others may need to interact with the information a few more times before they fully understand. Also, be mindful that many adults still struggle with learning disabilities; a dyslexic may need to talk through a new process instead of reading it. Learn how your team members learn and stop expecting one-size-fits-all learning experiences to work for everyone.
- Problem solve around resistance. A field technician still not using his ipad effectively? It’s probably because he doesn’t know how. Research shows that most employees don’t do things because they don’t know how to do them and that generates fear. Fear of making mistakes. Fear of looking bad. If your field technician isn’t using technology that will make his job easier, engage him in a conversation about what kind of support he needs to master the new tool.
- Celebrate achievements in learning. Whether it’s simple, verbal affirmation (“Hey Bob, thanks for doing that safety training and sharing the information with the team”), or tied to formal recognition like bonuses or raises, make sure your team understands that new learning is valued.
The most empowering knowledge isn’t a set of facts or a particular set of skills; it’s knowing that you can learn anything you decide you want to know. That’s what we need to teach young people and the people on our teams.