While identifying the right things to work on is a critical decision we must make each day, it is also important to have the right people with the knowledge and skills working on the right things.
Do managers at all levels understand how the strengths in our organization can form the basis for the creation of a systemic continuous improvement process?
Do people at all levels understand as well as use tools and charts to track progress, problems and opportunities for improvement?
Are people at all levels being developed and educated so as to engender engagement and loyalty?
The importance of providing employees with ongoing education and development opportunities is consistently identified as a necessary component of engagement, and also as a step in developing a culture of continuous improvement. People can’t improve the work or their workplace if they don’t know how… and people can’t move forward in a career path without learning.
In support of this perspective, a recent article in Human Resource Executive magazine identified “continuous learning opportunities and personal development” as being two of the four key criteria (scheduling flexibility and social responsibility being the other two) recent graduates value most as they evaluate career options. Of course, the need to empower the workforce through education is not a new concept.
For example, a 2004 Harvard Business Review article, Capitalizing on Capabilities noted that what people respect about many of the nation’s prominent companies is not how they are structured or their specific approaches to management, but their capabilities.
“These capabilities—the collective skills, abilities, and expertise of an organization—are the outcome of investments in staffing, training, compensation, communication, and other human resources areas. They represent the ways that people and resources are brought together to accomplish work. They form the identity and personality of the organization by defining what it is good at doing and, in the end, what it is.”
Stop Chopping Trees to Sharpen the Ax…
But expanding workloads and limited resources can make it difficult to provide initial and refresher training for both senior leaders, associates, and new hires.
Some organizations have addressed these issues by hiring external training partners, and others have turned to peer-education models by giving employees temporary assignments in different functional areas where they learn from co-workers while assisting with the work.
A great many more are relying on learning management systems (LMS) or e-learning, which has enabled them to maintain training and development programs in a manageable way as well. These systems address the administration, delivery, and tracking of education, and enable employees to learn in smaller “doses” in less time.
This advantage of the “e-learning” approach is significant. As outlined in a recent article on “Engagement Trends” by John O’Brien, Vice President, Employee Performance Group at BiWorldwide, “Train more with less.”
O’Brien suggests breaking-down material into smaller pieces that can be delivered on-demand, noting that this approach is consistent with evolving work habits and flexible schedules.
Keeping people at all levels educated, empowered and engaged is an important element of creating and maintaining a culture of continuous improvement which, when combined with consistent measurement, communication and recognition can lead to world-class performance and a competitive edge.