How managers become active learning agents
For companies it’s crucial to engage employees in high-performance learning. Only by doing so can they come up with new and innovative ideas which can be collectively translated into a competitive edge. So how can you, as a manager, foster a culture of effective learning within your team?
Here some tips on how to become an active agent in your team members’ learning:
Draw the bigger picture with your team: Invite them to share their ideas and how to cope best with new developments and trends. Then identify the learning needs and shape them around the work your team needs to do.
Make individual development plans: Be clear about the direction you want each of your team member to progress in, and accordingly develop strategies to make this happen. The individual development plan should be based on the strength of the employee and discussed with them. The plan can consist of short, medium and long-term learning goals.
Stimulate experiential learning: On-the-job-learning, action learning, serious games and simulations are forms of experiential learning that make use of critical thinking, problem solving and decision making. Research has found that experiences designed to simulate real-business challenges produce both learning and business value by helping employees to gain new knowledge and skills through hands-on practice in a safe environment. Research also shows that high-performing firms are about three times more likely to use experiential learning methods for both the frontline and the executive level than lower performers.
Anywhere, anytime: Assuming that the individual learning goals of each team member are clear, make it a habit to share and send each other articles, videos and information that are relevant to them. By using mobile applications, employees can access this information when and where they need it.
Make meetings hands-on: Combine long team meetings with hands-on workshops. This will encourage collaboration and learning by doing. Also replace long presentations with instructional videos. If you want to explore important topics in-depth make use of such collaborative approaches as World Café or Open Space.
Celebrate your experts: Acknowledge employees who have expanded their knowledge successfully. It highlights that expertise matters and that your organisation is willing to invest in in-house skills. Host e.g. a monthly “breakfast and learn” session for your team: within the context of the main topic, employees can share what they’ve learned, discuss and recommend tips and tricks.
Tried and tested: Mentoring remains one of the most effective learning methods. As employees turn to their mentors for advice, they make fewer mistakes on the job and tend to have greater job satisfaction as well, which can mean a more positive work environment. A mentoring programme might even help to attract new talent.
Provide time to learn: Don’t expect your employees to learn new things only during their time off. Instead focus on incorporating learning sessions into normal office hours. You can ask your team members - depending on their roles and responsibilities - to spend 1 – 2 hours every week towards this end. Make sure that you don’t overwhelm them with so much work that they aren’t able to follow-up on any new developments.
Growth comes from doing something different. As individuals and companies, we can only make progress if we are in the learning zone – the place where new insights and ideas are born. As a manager, you are key to ensuring that all your team members are able to develop themselves.
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