Driving Business Growth Through Learning
Advances in information technology have changed the face and pace of business. Now that the majority of companies are online, business doesn’t stop when the doors close and your employees leave for the day. Emails, orders and enquiries can be sent any time, day or night.
As communication gets faster and faster, operational constraints appear smaller and smaller, and possibilities become bigger and bigger. Your staff can connect with customers anywhere in the world and, thanks to technology, businesses can expand rapidly. The question is, as our pace of life becomes faster, turnaround times get shorter, your customers’ expectations are increasing, can you keep up?
Keeping up with customers
Improved technology may have enabled your business to work faster, but a faster pace of work can mean that you have more staff to manage, more administration, more to action and more to regulate. Juggling your ever-increasing task list may work for a while, but it’s never conducive to a successful, sustainable way of working. The only way to truly succeed is to allow others within the business to bear some of the load.
Lessening the load
So, who do you look to? Delegation is essential, that’s clear, but which member(s) of staff are up to the job? You have two options, ‘upskill’ your existing staff members or hire someone new.
If you see management potential in your current staff, it’s not enough to simply instruct them to, “act like a manager” or expect them fulfill their new role immediately. The necessary skills and attitudes need to be developed gradually in order to enable staff to move into a new role and embrace the added responsibility. Confidence plays a big part in this, and this is a characteristic that can only grow through learning.
If you decide to hire new employees, businesses often complain that new staff cannot do the tasks that are carried out by existing staff. The majority of the time, this is because you haven't given new employees the opportunity to try, fail and learn. Only by learning and experiencing the ‘wrong way’ of doing things and the repercussions of this can an employee progress. This is illustrated in the book ‘Gung Ho!’ by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles, particularly the chapter which describes the way that young beavers are taught to build dams by the older members in their colony.
Making friends with failure
In a work culture obsessed with winning, failure is avoided at all costs - success is always championed and communicated, but things tend to go a bit ‘hush-hush’ when it comes to failure. However, the majority of learning comes from trial and error, and individuals learn more from failure than they do from success.
Of course, most businesses cannot afford their staff the luxury of learning though failure in a real-life setting. This is where the challenge presents itself, you need to provide an environment for your staff to learn, which does not implicate any aspect of your business and most importantly, your customers.
So how can you create an environment where people can try things without the fear of failure and also the consequences? Role play has for a long time been a method employed by trainers to work through a scenario and explore the consequences, but the issue with role play is that you normally require a number of other people to be involved. Simulation has come in and enabled us to perform role play without the need for the additional people and it is the simulation, game playing or interactive activities within online learning that combats the issues posed above.
You need your staff, new or existing, to be trained, skilled and confident and to have experience. By creating training which not only equips your employees with the necessary knowledge to learn new skills and also allows employees to learn in a safe, risk-free environment where they can make mistakes and learn from them, without the consequences of the real world.
Providing your employees with the tools to develop their own abilities can help to power a business in both the short term and the long term. Learning is the basis of progression; your team can operate efficiently, with responsibilities evenly distributed to drive forwards the overall performance of the business. Upskilling new or existing staff allows management to concentrate on the high-level running of the business and employees benefit from career progression, personal development and a new-found confidence in their own abilities. If you would like more information on developing employees to give your business a competitive advantage, then give us a call.
Also another book I've found interesting is Raving Fans : A Revolutionary Approach to Customer Service.