How to ensure learning does NOT bore your team to death

Corporate training is a more practical expression that refers to “organizational learning” – a term most of us have heard either at work or in a classroom. We suspect you may have cringed upon reading it, since it brings back awful memories of those excruciatingly long multiple choice e-learning tests. Or perhaps it reminds you of the dreadfully boring in-class lectures you had to sit through. You know, the kind that was so bad that you actually wished you were back at your desk working? Yeah, those. Shudder.

And the worst part? You probably don’t even remember what you learned at those corporate training sessions, much less applied it to the job or shared the main takeaways with people on your team.

Get us out of here!This is not what corporate training should result in. Zzzz.

Organizational learning – a necessary evil?

In its report on Corporate Learning, Deloitte highlights that businesses are focused on ensuring they provide their employees with the skills needed to keep up with the fast pace of innovation. The report highlights that in 2012, annual spending on corporate learning increased by 12% from the year before.

Businesses know they need to invest in their employees so they can keep enhancing their skills and, more importantly, provide them with the knowledge they need to keep innovating and improve performance.

So why does organizational learning have to be so boring (and expensive)? Well truth is, it doesn’t! In fact every company, business or team can start today – and no need to spend tons of dollars on the technology or to hire someone to do the job. It’s all about attitude and fostering a sense of community within your organization.

START WITH YOUR PEOPLE – Get them to share their knowledge and create a culture of learning

The fact is, your colleagues are one of the best resources for useful and critical knowledge, which they have gathered from their own experiences on the job. Your organization needs to create an environment that encourages knowledge sharing and fosters a culture of learning that everyone can benefit from.

Google understands and embraces this idea, because they have created a perk called “Googler to Googler”, where an employee will present in a teaching role to his or her colleagues. The beauty of this employee-to-employee learning perk is that it encourages a culture of learning. By allowing employees to leverage their own expertise, they get to choose what they feel is important to teach their colleagues.

In this case, the teacher is one of your peers, not an outsider who may not have the same understanding of the challenges you face on a daily basis. He or she intimately knows the hurdles you face; they can relate to your experiences on the job, and as a result, will probably share relevant insight that will make your ears perk up!

It is an amazing concept if you think about it – and we highly suggest you try to replicate it. You could even take it one step further and put a camera in the room, record or stream the session and share it with the rest of the organization. That way, you can get more feedback and questions. People may even develop their own responses.

In fact, this is exactly what happened at The Cheesecake Factory, when they created a video-learning portal for employees to show how to accomplish certain tasks on the job well. They struck the perfect balance between using the right technology and rules to successfully empower their employees to increase knowledge sharing within the organization. As a result, the Cheesecake Factory video-learning portal went viral with its employees. If you’d like to learn more about their initiative, you can view a presentation by Jeff Stepler, The Cheesecake Factory’s VP of Organizational Engagement, that includes screenshots of the portal.

SHARE STORIES – Talk about that moment when things went wrong with a customer, or what you did to clinch that deal, or how you saved the company some money. CREATE a community where you can tell your story, listen to others and interact over your experiences.

With the technology available today, it is relatively inexpensive and easy to create communities, groups or forums where employees can share their best practices or lessons learned. These groups are great informal social learning tools that employees can use to share experiences and help their colleagues uncover hidden gems of knowledge, discovered from their exploits on the job. Employees can use these forums for storytelling and sharing “war stories.”

By using technology tools, these communities can reach audiences far and wide and provide your colleagues (who may not all be in one place) a way to connect and share specialized knowledge with each other. It is not just about sharing their experiences with their peers; individuals can also receive feedback, guidance, encouragement that will not only help increase knowledge sharing, but also promote a culture of learning.

Sharing stories is easier than ever, thanks to technology

For example, if Tom in the Sydney office sees a story posted by Josh from the Toronto office in their company forum about how his strategy and sales process for a specific industry helped get clients, maybe Tom can tweak it and try to replicate Josh’s success. Tom may even reach out directly to Josh, a colleague he has never met due to geographic restrictions, to arrange some one-on-one time and get some feedback on his own ideas.

With an online community, two colleagues who may never have connected are able to interact, share ideas and learn from one another. Imagine the sheer impact on your organization!

What if a sales rep applying his colleague’s best practices was able to close more deals? Or if a customer support agent could answer more users and resolve helpdesk tickets faster due to a more experienced colleague’s tips and tricks? In both cases, it is a win-win situation for the organization.

Stories connect people. By sharing those experiences with others in your organization, their power can be leveraged and your successes may be replicated.

How are you encouraging your team to share their knowledge and tell stories to encourage organizational learning? What tools, processes or methods have worked? Tried something and failed? Tell us about it! Share your stories here with your comments below or tweet us @Crowdbase.

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