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    April 29, 2024

    HR & Career-long Learning

    There is no doubt that the rapid change in every aspect of our lives is impacting how we work.  The rate of change is getting faster, making it even more difficult to keep up. Businesses must make sure their workforce has the skills they need and can keep up with the speed of change. This type of stress and constant change is what employees need to feel more comfortable with to be successful. It has an impact on productivity as well as physical and mental health. All of this can hurt an organization if they aren’t looking at a variety of ways to make lifelong learning a key part of workforce development. 

    The traditional, classroom-style way of learning can still be very beneficial, but it is not the only way to make sure your employees can gain the skills your company needs. It makes it easy to measure because you know if someone has completed a course and taken an exam. However, there is great value in understanding how learning needed skills can be accomplished through social activity, peer interactions, focused mentoring, and collaborative projects. 

    Social activities can lead to conversations and learning in a way that connects people through something they already have in common, or all want to learn. Some examples are organizing “give back” days where people from different parts of an organization get together to support a cause they all care about. It could be a volunteer day at a local food bank, animal shelter, or for an organization like Habitat for Humanity. It may be through participating in a class on a topic not specifically job-related but designed to build relationships between diverse team members like a cooking class or public speaking training.

    Another approach to social learning is through affinity groups in your organization that can bring together diverse employees. These could be a group that focuses on new parents or caregivers to adults. It could be through a hiking or walking group. It could be a group focused on supporting local restaurants where employees organize and go to the restaurant once a month. Ideally getting leadership involved in any of these groups can help them be more successful. They can also be responsible for making sure that these groups are more diverse and allow leaders to understand employees on a deeper level. That can help leaders be more aware of potentially unrecognized skills in employees with whom they typically don't interact.

    Peer interactions during work are also a great learning opportunity. Peer-to-peer learning is when there is a mutual learning and training focus that includes participants at the same level who are learning collaboratively. It is a great way to assess communication styles and skills. For example, not everyone is a good teacher. That doesn’t mean they don’t have value to your organization, but means not making them a ”teacher” when this is not in their skill set. Group study sessions are another example of peer-to-peer learning.

    Some of the benefits of peer-to-peer training are more trust in the learning process and creating better connections and interactions between peers. There is no one leader or teacher; everyone is seen as having something to contribute. It helps create more critical thinking, better creative problem solving, integrated teamwork, and the recognition of who has what skills and experience that can be complementary to their own. 

    Mentoring is something that gets talked about a lot, but to make any mentoring program more successful, there needs to be clear guidelines and a focus on what the mentoring is supposed to accomplish. This is a more solutions-focused approach. The goals are often about recognizing and building on specific strengths versus just a general focus on a career path. It can have a mentoring focus that is about targeting skill sets needed at the company, in a particular team or location.

    Another approach is collaborative projects within your organization and looking at who is getting chosen for these projects. It’s easy to pick people to be involved that you know, have worked with before, or are very aware of their specific area of expertise. All of that is needed so projects meet their goals, but it can leave out employees who are not as visible or not like the person leading the project. It may leave out employees with the potential to gain knowledge that can help with the next key project. Looking for ways to include employees who have been overlooked can be of great benefit to your company for both current projects and building needed skills for the future.

    No matter your company’s approach, we all know that change will only continue to challenge our working environments.  Having several ways to make learning easier, create inclusive, and be more impactful means looking at more than one approach to lifelong career learning for employees at every level.

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