To Grow, Ditch The Cookie Cutter

By Fatmanur Erdogan, Hürriyet Daily News

There isn’t a country in the world where the citizens don’t complain about the education system.  It’s never good enough, there’s always something wrong with it.  The dissatisfaction starts early, with many parents working second jobs just to send their kids to private school.  Then, if all goes well, eventually their kids will graduate from expensive, elite universities.  In between, almost 20 years will have been spent running from the perceived mediocrity of the nation’s public education system.

After they graduate, we dump our youth into the workforce, where we continue to complain about the education system, now relabeled “workforce training”.  At this point, though, you’d think we’d be happy with the system.  We finally have control over it, because we manage the private sector companies that design and use it.

If this system is of our own creation, then why are we so dissatisfied with it?  Perhaps the reason we complain so much is we really love to learn.  Research shows that people enjoy work the most when it presents them with chances to learn new skills.  In fact, some people even go so far as to say that money runs second to a challenging learning environment.

Employers, take note.  Your employees place a very high value on opportunities to expand their horizons.  A well-designed set of training programs will make your employees happier and more loyal to your company, and to some of them it will even mean more than the salaries you pay them.  Especially during hard times, when you are unable to give promotions and salary increases, or even inflation adjustments, you can offer your people training opportunities instead.

So if we all love to learn so much, and if companies can keep their people loyal with great training programs, why are great programs so rare?  Most companies are still stuck with one style of training, where employees sit in class and listen passively.  This approach works well for some people, but not all.

Different people learn differently.  No one format is going to appeal to, or work for, everyone.  For me, realizing how I learned best was a memorable turning point in my own education.  From there, I studied the various learning styles, and I saw that understanding the different styles active in your team can bring many advantages.

So, in planning employee training programs, one would expect human resources departments to be more aware of these different learning styles, so they could design programs that fit their people’s needs better.  Unfortunately, this is rarely the case.  Too many companies’ programs are filled with boring courses that follow the same cookie-cutter format, and employee progress is measured mechanically, by the number of courses taken.

Often overlooked in this approach to workforce training is an entrepreneur’s eclectic, hands-on style of learning.  Most entrepreneurial types are very bright and eager learners.  They tend to not wait for the company to provide education to them, they tend to actively seek it out themselves, even before a need is assessed.

Because they are creative self-learners, encouraging them in your company is a great way to nurture a learning environment.  Their spirit and thirst for knowledge will keep your organization vibrant.  As they move about the company, they will naturally take lessons they saw being applied in one area of your company, and repurpose them for use in another area.  They are a natural antidote to the “silo-ization” of your company’s training initiatives.

If you are a leader at your company, responsible for the happiness and loyalty of your people, rest assured that they love to learn.  The challenge for you, now, is to provide them with options.  Each one of your people has a different style, and if you provide them with a path that appeals to that style, their natural love of learning will kick in, and you’ll see your company’s skill level rise naturally.

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