Your organization most likely delivers lots of Instructor Led and eLearning courses… but do you have an on-going or informal training program? Ongoing & informal training is a great way to keep your employees up to date with company/product changes and to keep their skills sharp. Sometimes, it can be difficult to allow time for this type of informal learning that fits into everyone’s schedule and that resonates with employees.
To ensure your employees are practicing ongoing learning and to save your company some money on formal training and conference expenses, we’ve come up with a list of 5 ways you can actively encourage ongoing learning for little cost.
- Develop an ongoing mentorship program. Mentor systems are a go-to for initial training because they are a great way to acclimate new employees to your company, as well as give them a senior employee to learn from. There is no reason that mentorship programs can’t continue after initial training, and in fact, maintaining an active mentorship system is a great way to promote ongoing learning, informally and inexpensively. As new employees grow into more experienced employees, they become mentors and the cycle continues. Learning from peers is an effective way to create a culture of collaboration and keep informal training alive.
- Advocate for open, scheduled brainstorming sessions. Mark your and your employees’ calendars for a monthly, mandatory brainstorming session. It may seem tedious, but depending on your department, it could be really lucrative to your business and strategies. However, even if the brainstorming doesn’t lead to an ingenious, legendary idea, it does promote the informal and ongoing learning of your employees within your organization. Brainstorming allows people to give their feedback and ideas, to learn from others’ perspectives and to overall encourage team development.
- Start an intra-office Reading Club. Okay, so before you roll your eyes, open your mind for a moment. As a tail-end to your brainstorming, a staff meeting or as a separate meeting altogether, nominate a person to suggest a book, article, story, or essay to share with the group. After the meeting is over, it is every employee’s “homework” to read the suggested document and during the next meeting discuss how it related to your challenges or successes. The reading material doesn’t have to be all business in nature, it can be anything as long as the person who suggests it found a way to tie it into their struggles or successes related to work. This is a great way to promote ongoing learning and collaboration, plus it will begin to train your employee’s to start consuming and critically thinking about content.
- Try role play and scenario sessions. Okay, another one that you have to just be open-minded about. As silly as it may sound, acting out real situations that involve client, co-worker, or prospect interaction can help your employees be more prepared and confident in their abilities. It can also give your team fresh ideas and perspectives they may not have had before. Encourage your team to describe situations they’ve recently been in within their positions to share with the group. Act it out, describe in detail and set the “stage” for the interaction. The rest of the group can then give feedback for handling the situation.
- Improve your stagnant staff meetings. The same mundane staff meetings become less and less helpful as time goes on if they aren’t introducing new perspectives or ideas. Use some or all of the ideas in this blog post to improve your staff meetings. Focus on gathering the perspectives, challenges and triumphs of your team, because the information they share is usually pertinent to the entire team. Beef up your staff meetings and encourage ongoing learning within them. Challenge your employees to try some of these tips, and they’ll be honing their skills without even realizing.
Ongoing, informal learning within your organization may take a different form than these suggestions and that’s okay. The thought process here is to provide a starting point with some unique ideas to promote and measure ongoing learning opportunities.
The key to making this work for your organization is trial and error. Figure out what is working and what’s not, then use that information to continuously improve.
Sources: “Ongoing Training: Six Ideas” by Margery Weinstein, trainingmag.com; “Building a Learning Organization” by David A. Garvin, Harvard Business Review, hbr.org.
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