📚 Learning and Development in 2021
Three Approaches to Foster Growth
In my conversations with the professionals featured on The Switchboard, I’ve learned about the skills needed for success in Internal Communications. Their responses have recommended writing, listening, public speaking, relationship building, organizational knowledge and more great suggestions.
After a few interviews, I began to ask myself:
Where can professionals acquire these skills? How can they hold themselves accountable to learn the skills? Who are the best teachers?
I began to search university offerings, conferences and blogs in order to outline my professional development plan for 2021. Now, more than ever before, there are many ways to learn with live or on-demand classes, webinars, Instagram Live workshops, books and more resources than I can list.
As I focused on my professional learning purpose, this search led me to LinkedIn’s “The 2020 Workplace Learning Report with this powerful opening line:
“L&D [Learning and Development] has a unique opportunity to help teams strengthen their skills-and find resilience-in the middle of unprecedented change.”
Internal Communications is a pivotal partner with L&D — we listen for interest, elevate ideas, organize opportunities and champion the events in a creative way to ensure the participation these learning opportunities deserve.
This learning and development focus is a priority organizations should pay close attention to: LinkedIn’s research demonstrates that:
“94% of employees say they would stay at a company longer if it invested in their learning and development.”
As I craft my 2021 growth planning process, using this great kanban style resource from Trello, here are three approaches influencing how I’m approaching learning for myself and my peers.
1. Learn about your organization.
Knowledge about where you work can help employees perform jobs better while enhancing their connection to and confidence of the organization.
Aytekin Tank, the founder of Jot Form, wrote in Fast Company about how they require new hires to learn the company’s strengths and opportunities by putting them directly in touch with the product via customers. They respond to approximately 100 customer support requests during their first thirty days on the job:
“We want them to understand our users intimately, what they need, how they struggle, and how we can better serve them. This hands-on training also immerses them in our culture and ensures they’re prepared for any role in the company.”
This is just one example of a training program with minimal planning required. Other organizations have developed robust programs, such as Bonobos’ “Learn.Know.Bos” — a week-long learning and development initiative with speakers and training topics as a way to teach employees about mission, values, and strategy. Learn more about the program and several others in Greenhouse’s blog post.
2. Learn skills for success at your organization.
Have you admired a colleague for their skills of facilitation, project management, or organization? There’s promising research from Harvard Business Review that we’re more likely to learn from those who are around us:
“Peer-to-peer learning can be a powerful development tool that breaks through some common barriers to skill-building — and it taps into the expertise that already exists in your organization.”
The authors of the article, Kelly Palmer and David Blake, also co-wrote a book on the topic, The Expertise Economy — which is now on my to-read list for the year.
Their research shows that people excel at learning new skills when there are four stages involved, called the “Learning Loop” with the following steps: “gain knowledge; practice by applying that knowledge; get feedback; and reflect on what has been learned. Peer-to-peer learning encompasses all of these. To set up a peer-to-peer learning program for your team, focus on building a safe environment where they will be open to constructive feedback, and focus on real-world situations so participants can apply the skills they’ve learned quickly.”
Plus, it helps the teachers become better at their craft. Work life psychologist and University of Pennsylvania Professor Adam Grant wrote in The New York Times: “The best way to learn something truly is to teach it — not just because explaining it helps you understand it, but also because retrieving it helps you remember it.”
So, the next step is to invite the experts to share their skills, schedule it and publicize it!
3. Learn Skills for success at life (and at work).
Beyond the work focused skills, hobbies and side projects also teach valuable experiences relevant in life, and at work. As sources of fulfillment, inspiration and creativity, these activities can be shared with colleagues to spark connection and conversation.
Returning to Aytekin Tank, the founder of Jot Form, who writes in Medium’s “The StartUp” about “Considering a New Hobby? It Might Help Your Career. Research has found that leisure activities have concrete professional benefits.”
In making the case for hobbies at work, he shares the following research:
“Creative hobbies have been shown to enhance performance and problem-solving abilities. One study from San Francisco State University found that people who often engaged in a creative activity scored 15–30 percent higher on performance rankings. They were also more likely to come up with creative solutions to on-the-job problems.”
Mailchimp took this once step further by hosting “Night School” for its employees. Ashley Wilson, Senior Producer, Employee Experience, reflected about the experience on the Mailchimp blog: “Mailchimp Night School Lets Employees Take The Reigns.This is the story of how we jumped at the chance to turn an after-hours art party into an experimental — and very successful — employee engagement series.”
Night School launched in 2016 with Lettering, Calligraphy and Intro to Improv and ultimately hosted 29 sessions that year by inviting employees to share what they wanted to teach and develop the class.
So, the next step is to add a field to that skill form and invite the experts to share their hobbies too, and the lessons learned can be applied to work!
I’m looking forward to a year of learning on my own and from my colleagues. How will you approach learning this year? Let me know as I hope to make this a common topic of conversation on The Switchboard.