There are many reasons to keep learning throughout your life. Not only does it keep the mind sharp and stimulated with new knowledge but it makes you look intelligent and it’s genuinely enjoyable to master new subjects and skills.
The matter is considerably more urgent than that. Automation and economic disruption will dramatically change the world of work in our lifetime, perhaps numerous times. Those who have a narrow focus on one skill or discipline may feel the painful fallout if their industry suffers upheaval. Therefore it is good business sense to have ‘more than one string to your bow’.
In today’s workforce, diverse knowledge equates to greater employability.
And as a manager or leader, it’s important to avoid the common trap of thinking that you’ve learnt enough.
The world is changing fast and if you don’t broaden your abilities and knowledge at a rapid pace along with it, you will be left behind. The most compelling argument for continued learning is that your professional relevance is at stake.
Let’s look at how you can embark on a learning journey this year, and how to take your team with you.
1. Set some career development goals. What courses could you do to boost your skill set? Are there any aspects of your leadership role where you’d like to improve your performance and results? Great leadership is a learnt skill, so the more training you receive, the better you’ll be. Is technology starting to leave you behind? If so, it’s time to catch up— whether that’s enrolling in a course on mastering a new MacBook Pro or scheduling some time with your IT person to help you master the tools you use at work. How’s your time management? The possibilities for further professional training are endless, so pick something you’re keen on and get going!
2. Set some leisure-time learning goals. This might be reading a certain amount of books in a year, or to join a writing club. It might be taking up a hobby unrelated to your work that you’ve always been interested in, such as learning a musical instrument or carpentry. Or perhaps learning a new language; it’s a powerful way to build your employability, as well as giving your brain power a boost.
3. Look outside the traditional. Learning doesn’t necessarily have to be through formal studies such as classroom or online courses. Continuous learning can also be achieved through emulating others that you respect. Business icons like Richard Branson suggest surrounding yourself with people that are better at something than you. This might be finding a mentor, following the blogs of thought leaders, or hiring that person that’s overqualified so that you can learn from them. Squash that feeling that they might outshine you and bring them onboard, and actively seek out the high performers who are punching above their weight. This is your chance to learn…
4. Build (and appreciate) your network. Networking and learning from our peers is an effective way of building knowledge. Think of all the friends and acquaintances you have in other industries. How much do you know about their jobs, their companies, and the challenges their sector is facing? Those who are thought to have a degree of knowledge across multiple fields tend to be considered more intelligent- partly because their conversational abilities.
5. Build your general knowledge to gain respect in the workplace and increased employability. Reading the newspaper (and not only the sections you like!) or watching the news is a great way to build general knowledge that marks you out in conversation as someone who is informed across many topics. This is the easiest way of all to build a small amount of knowledge about many things, fast.
6. Establish a learning culture in your team. Companies that invest in their employees’ continued learning show higher productivity and profitability, and the employees remain engaged and sufficiently knowledgeable to meet any challenges the business might face. So sit down with each team member and ask them what they’d like to learn this year. Do whatever you can to help them achieve that. If you have constraints on your training budget, consider cost-effective methods such as free or inexpensive online courses, or opt to send a high performer on training and task them with teaching the other team members what they learnt.
7. Use experience as a learning opportunity. Analysis should also be applied to individual and team performance after a project or goal has been reached. To really learn from an experience, it’s important to have a de-brief process where key issues that came up through the project are analysed and discussed about how it could be improved. This non-judgemental review of a team or individual effort is extremely important not only in making things work better when repeated, but also to encourage the habit of constant learning on the job through triumphs and learning opportunities.
8. Encourage people to talk about what they’re learning, both in and out of work. When people are learning, they tend to like talking about it. In this way, knowledge is transferred through organisations in an organic, genuine way which generates enthusiasm for more learning.
9. Align learning with the team and business goals. There’s a boundless amount of information and training opportunities in the world, so you need to be strategic about which courses or learning pathways are of most benefit to the company.
Hopefully this list of tips will spur some inspiration on what you’d like to learn this year, and how you might take your whole team with you on this learning journey.
Excel Communications has over a 30-year history as a global leadership and communication skills organisation dedicated to exceeding the expectations of clients through the training and development of their business and people.
We have a team of expert trainers delivering programmes across four continents in multiple languages. Isn’t it time you got in touch? Call us now on +44 (0) 1628 488 854.