Teaching An Employee To Fish – Self-Education 101

Most employees want to enhance their skills and stay abreast of industry trends and new developments.  If they don’t, get rid of them – they’ll never be top performers. 

Companies can leverage employee training programs as a retention strategy to help prevent employees from leaving for another career opportunity.  When employers invest in employee training, they prove their staff can engage in professional development within their organization and that management cares enough to groom their employees for promotions. 

However, not all companies can afford an in-depth employee training program right now.  One free alternative is to foster a Culture Of Learning within your organization.  This tactic will not convey the same level of dedication to employee career pathing, but will lead to increased engagement because employees will still be enhancing their skills.

The end goal in fostering a Culture Of Learning is for employees to be able to enhance their knowledge-base via self-education.  As the cliché goes, “Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime.”  The same principle applies for fostering a culture of learning.  Employees will never learn how to teach themselves if they are always spoon-fed information.  In addition, it takes resources to prepare information for the spoon-feeding! 

Arm your employees with the knowledge of how and where to go to glean information to teach themselves.  As everyone knows, I’m a huge proponent of reading blogs.  Instruct your staff to call upon their googling powers to discover relevant blogs relating to your industry – no doubt there will be several!   Peruse their blogrolls to discover other industry blogs.  Take note of frequent commenters, as they may also contribute to a blog of their own.

Once you have gathered plenty of blogs with relevant industry content, I recommend enlisting the help of an RSS Reader to help you cull and manage the vast amount of information.  My preferred reader is Google Reader because it is user-friendly and free.  Keep track of important posts with the help of a social bookmarking site; I personally use delicious.  You can discover other bookmarkers with similar interests and subscribe to a feed of their bookmarks within your RSS Reader.  Within many RSS Readers you can also share a relevant post with others utilizing the same reader.  Which brings me to the Culture Of Sharing….

A Culture of Learning is best culminated in conjunction with a Culture of Sharing.  I firmly believe it’s imperative to share your knowledge and absorb knowledge from others to be a well-rounded and informed employee.  Schedule regular meetings with knowledge-sharing on the agenda.  Be sure to include all levels of staff; entry level employees are just as capable of learning new industry ideas as senior managers.  The first meeting may entail demonstrating to employees how to tap into information to teach themselves.  However, every meeting thereafter should be run as a round-table discussion of what they’ve recently discovered about their business sector.  Promote the Culture of Sharing by encouraging employees to share interesting posts via their social bookmarking site or within their RSS Readers.  Create an internal wiki, allowing every employee editing rights to create new pages containing information they deem important or thought-provoking enough to share with the entire company. 

Developing a strong Culture of Learning puts you on the cusp of industry tends without continuous training.  And a Culture of Sharing allows your employees to be agile, adapting to industry changes and discovering new strategies more quickly.  Fostering a Culture of Learning and Sharing will result in a more engaged and informed staff, two factors in extending tenure within an organization.

 

Thomas Delorme
Written by Thomas Delorme

VP, Digital Products & Strategy

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