In my article How to use skills development as a platform for success, I introduced the idea that an employee’s environment plays a critical role in the degree to which new skills will be applied and practiced to make them sustained behaviours.
This environment is fostered by the employee himself, the skills development team (especially the firm’s Skills Development Facilitator and the training/ classroom facilitator), his manager (and the management team above him) and his colleagues.
In this article, I explore the top three things that employees, managers and business leaders can do to help facilitate the effective transfer of learning from the classroom to the workplace.
- Have a ‘game plan’; goals in life to work towards. If you know you want to be a senior project manager for a large multi-national company one day, you need to have a good idea of the skills that you will need to perform that job well. Seek out learning opportunities that will take you closer to the ultimate goal; don’t focus only on what you need in your current role
- Be open to both formal and informal learning opportunities. Look for an informal mentor or coach from whom you can learn business and life skills. The advantage of this kind of learning is that it can be tailored to your specific needs at any time. Engage in formal learning opportunities that will enable your “game plan”; don’t just blindly attend training because you have been told to go.
- Understand that you are dispensable; you cannot afford to be complacent at work. By proactively developing yourself, you can make yourself more valuable to your organisation. The latest (3rd quarter 2012) unemployment statistics on http://www.statssa.gov.za quote South Africa’s unemployment rate as being 25,5%. By being genuinely skilled and embracing lifelong learning and development, you can avoid being part of that number.
- Understand what your employer is trying to achieve; start by knowing the vision and mission of the business. Use this as a baseline for how your team is expected to think and behave every day. Encourage the behaviours that support the company’s vision and actively manage out any delinquent behaviours
- Be an active participant in the formulation of your company’s Skills Development Plan; identify the skills gaps and future leaders in your team and proactively look for ways to develop those areas
- Foster a learning environment, for example, by showing your employees that there are career paths that they can work towards. You can also create opportunities for them to influence how they work (e.g. by empowering them to make suggestions for improvement or solutions to problems). The list goes on…
- Communicate the investment that your company is making in people through skills development; it is not just an opportunity for a free lunch and a day out of the office. If your company invests in a member of your team, s/he has a responsibility to pay back that investment through improved performance after the training. How about making this a key performance indicator that they are measured against at year end?
The business leader
- Look beyond skills development as a way to score B-BBEE points and claim back skills levies paid. There is an opportunity cost in having employees out of the office; make this additional investment count by encouraging employees to take skills development seriously and hold them accountable to improved performance following training
- Think carefully about how you measure the success of learning and development interventions; a 100% pass rate on a learnership is only meaningful if the learners have genuinely learnt skills and shown application in the workplace. It benefits nobody to fast track a learnership or spoon feed answers in order to achieve a high pass rate.
- Provide visible opportunities for upward mobility within your organisation; many individuals are motivated by the prospect of growth. They need to see that learning and skills development can lead to improvements in job status, salary and responsibility.