SIMPLE TRUTH #10: People want opportunities to learn and grow

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I’ve had a lot of career development discussions with employees, managers and leaders over the course of my career.  The feedback I received from them prompted this topic to become SIMPLE TRUTH #10.  Because I believe words matter, I always seek to get clarity about how people define the words they use.  So, I asked them to explain what exactly they meant by “learning and growing.”  This article describes the ways people want to learn and grow at work…SPOILER ALERT — it’s not solely about training classes. SIMPLE TRUTH #10: People want opportunities to learn and grow.

While training classes, webinars and videos can be a great solution to help employees learn a skill, they do have limitations.  In order for the training to become equally meaningful to the employee and the business, managers need to know — and spend time on — helping employees APPLY what they learned once they complete the training regardless of the medium used for the training.  The application of learning equals growing; and, that growth provides a feedback loop for increased interest in learning more.

Educated and experienced employees bring a lot to the table when it comes to knowledge but, again, many managers lack the skills and abilities to pull that experience out of their employees and enable it to be applied to business issues.  This is why techniques like InsideOut Coaching – built on the premise that employees know a lot and it is a manager’s job is to pull that out of them – are so powerful.  Instead, inexperienced managers believe that managing people is about telling employees what to do or how to do things (which is is not.)

For some people, learning and growing has to do with getting exposure to information or projects outside of their job area to help them better apply the experience(s) they already have.  This is why effective communication is key in any size business.  When the right information is free flowing, employees are exposed to useful information they seek in order to do their jobs better. If you’ve read SIMPLE TRUTHS #1-9, you know that they don’t have intentions to show up each day and suck at their jobs.

For some people, changing jobs is their only way to continue on the path of learning and growing.  If their employers don’t supply opportunities for them to apply their knowledge, stimulate them intellectually, or add something new to their job experience, they go to another company to see if they can get their needs met.

When I worked for a prominent management training and consulting firm, client companies would send employees what was considered a “personal growth seminar” our firm offered.  It was a powerful class that made you think about your life, passions and your work and see the points of disconnection that were keeping you from feeling satisfied in your life and work.  I was surprised to learn that many of the training participants would go back after attending the class and quit their jobs at the companies that sent them to the training!!

Several client companies used this personal growth training to cull the ‘dead weight’ from their organizations, believing that the cost of the class was much less than the cost to the company if employees were unsatisfied in their jobs and kept working there anyway. The few who came back energized from it were more productive and more committed to their employer for gaining the self-awareness and techniques they learned.  It was a win-win for everyone.

The irony here is that leaving companies in order to pursue growth is often labeled negatively when you are looking for a new job because recruiters and hiring managers may label you a “job hopper.”  And, both recruiters and hiring managers would gain from changing their perspectives. Employees who leave jobs or companies that were not a fit for their knowledge and talents, shouldn’t be viewed as a bad thing.  As a talent strategist and performance coach, I see it as this…here is a person with self-awareness who would rather continue on their career path and the pursuit of applying what they’ve learned over sitting in a unchallenging job they are not engaged in.  And besides that, they made space for new employees who WANT to be there. It’s your job to find the people whose interests and skills line up with your available positions.

Career paths aren’t straight lines. It is natural for human beings to zig zag in their careers as they evolve and grow as human beings.  Gone are the days of long term commitment to companies.  Statistics show that going forward, employees will only stay a couple years on the job on average – so while they are in your company, you want to engage them. If you ask, they will tell you what they know, what they’re good at, and want to do to help – then harness that positive energy by allowing them apply it to solve your company’s problems.  People Matter in Business.

Cindy Goyette, SPHR – Maximizing Human Capital, Inc. 2015

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