Investing in Your Employees’ Learning and Development

Throughout my career, I have taken notice of the efforts that my employers had attempted in order to train and hopefully develop new employees. I’ve also participated in continuous training and workshops as a refresher on the knowledge and skills I had gained throughout my employment at the company. Although I find all of this very important for your employees and your workforce as a whole, I can’t help to wonder if there are additional opportunities that employers are offering their employees. Are employers investing in the employees’ futures, as well?

One of the most inspiring things I have researched was the fact that some employers truly take notice to what their employees’ natural talents are or what their goals are for the future. Some employers also even help present opportunities that will allow employees to gain the skills they need to get where they want to be. But, these types of situations only really occur if an employer somehow takes the time to discover these additional talents or if the employees actually speak up to say what they really want to accomplish while employed there. But what if we tried to do things differently? What if we gave all employees the chance to be open and voice what they want as part of their learning and development? It seems as if though the training that the employees are involved in help them become experts at what they’re currently doing but doesn’t really offer them the ability to expand beyond that.

Call me crazy but I would love it if employers took the time to ask their employees what their career paths were and what type of training they would like to partake in. Give them the empowerment and options to pick what training they need and assist them in getting it. Investing in your employees this way can not only increase engagement, but could also increase loyalty and could even help your organization progress in ways it never could before. You are giving them the ability and the tools to help them be a super-asset for your company.

Too often, I hear employees leave companies because they feel like they have nowhere to go and no chances to grow as a professional and/or personally. So they venture elsewhere looking for the ability to learn and grow. I suppose that this post is more of me thinking out loud because I know that there is much more that is involved when it comes to L&D. Regardless,  I would be impressed to see that employers are giving their employees the options to pave the way to their future within the organization. I would also love to see employees take these chances and see how much it changes them.

Food for thought.

 Photo Source

Will Your Company Benefit from Social Media?

Recently I was involved in a discussion regarding social media in the workplace. Different individuals in this discussion had debated whether or not using social media would be beneficial or counter-productive. Although I do agree that some organizations wouldn’t find social media helpful, there are plenty of other companies that could use it as a useful tool. Today’s post will help educate companies on how social media can be functional.

The individuals debating that social media would be counter-productive mainly thought that it was only for personal use. They wondered how “gossip” or quirky status updates would help and believed that this would distract employees from doing their jobs. Although those are true points, there are also different social media sites that are geared towards business use. For example, Work Simple, Salesforce, and Yammer are three companies that come to mind.

If utilized properly, social media could be beneficial to companies for the following reasons:

Collaboration is easier. Technology is allowing businesses to be able to reach audiences on a global scale. To be able to keep up with this: employees are now available around the world; are working remotely while traveling; or are working different shifts to be accessible to all time zones. If all employees can’t participate in business meetings, it can be very hard for teams to effectively work together. Social media can allow employees to collaborate at any time and in any location so no one ends up missing out.

Employees get more exposure to executives and managers. Social media allows managers, HR, and executives to easily see which employees are influential. Many employees can have a hard time proving they are worthy of a promotion or raise. This tool will allow management to see employees’ documented efforts. It will display their progression and contributions in a way that validates their eligibility for promotion or rewards. It is a social recognition and performance management tool.

It can increase employee engagement. Social media can empower employees by giving them a voice. Additionally, having a tool that keeps a record of employees’ suggestions or ideas can make them become accountable for following through.

It can allow employees to communicate in a way that creates a solid community within the organization. Employees might work in different departments, locations, or time zones. Or, employees might work in a role that has them strapped to a desk or on the road. With those being realistic factors, employees can’t always converge in a way to get to know each other. Social media can allow employees to communicate throughout all levels of the business-spectrum. This is a team building tool that can create stronger cross-departmental teams and company community.

Employees will know who the correct point of contact is. I know I’ve wasted so much time trying to figure out who I need to contact for more information or assistance. This tool can allow employees know who does what in the business so they can get what they need faster. It can also help employees follow up easier by letting them to see who else was working on a project/task. This feature permits them to contact that person for clarification, status updates, or help. Pictures can also help employees put a name and job function to a face.

It can encourage learning and development. Employees can connect with others throughout the company and set up mentoring sessions. Additionally, this can be used as a knowledge base in which employees can find information faster so they can do their job more efficiently or help customers quicker. In addition to this, those using the tool can expose other users to helpful information by posting useful resources, invites to webinars, and so on.

It is a brainstorming tool. Great ideas don’t always get formulated right away. Discussion boards can be used as brainstorming meetings which will let employees provide thoughtful, innovative, and creative ideas when it comes to them. Having suggestions easily available can allow other members to jump in, build off of it, and develop it into something functional.

There are so many benefits to using business social media that I could go on and on about it. I feel that majority of companies could use it to their advantage if they utilize and customize it in a way that suits their industry, mission, and culture. Hopefully this information can open up minds to the endless possibilities that can come from using this tool.

If you want to read more about the benefits of business social media, please click on the following links:

Yammer-Business Benefits
Work Simple- Performance Management for Social Goals
Salesforce- The Social Enterprise Solution

Micromanagement Kills Productivity

The other day I had posted a conversation on Ted.com and was delighted to get an interesting comment. This individual had mentioned that her ideal employer would be one that explains why we do certain processes. Also, another ideal quality would be an employer that does not micromanage. I was so glad that these things were brought up because it is a subject that my peers have passionately discussed in the past. Why do managers think that micromanaging is actually helping? In reality, it does more harm than good.

To start, I’m going to dive into this post by discussing the first part of this person’s comment: why the company exists and why do we do the procedures. Nothing is worse than being trained by someone who only shows you how to go through the motions but doesn’t give an explanation. It is important for employers to train in a way that allows employees to get a full understanding of why they do certain things and how it impacts the business. If all an employer does is train an employee how to do “A. B. and C.” and nothing further, then the employee’s thought process most likely will end there.

A good training program should almost be like a story. For example, a trainer should show an employee how to do “function A.” but also explain what that function’s purpose is and why it’s important to the company. Giving this background and additional information will allow employees to have a clearer picture and retain information easier. Additionally, giving employees those details can allow them to be innovative. If an employee truly understands why they do specific tasks, they may be able to figure out a better and more efficient way to get to the end result. Essentially, you’re allowing employees to have the knowledge and ability to take their job duties a step further.

Once the employees get the swing of things, managers need to learn how to loosen up on their micromanagement. It is perfectly OK to mentor them this way in the beginning since new hires are bound to make a few mistakes through the first few months, but managers need to eventually give them room to do their job without breathing down their necks. Micromanagers feel like they need to be in control of things because they believe that is the only way they can ensure results. Contrary to their belief, it actually kills productivity rather than helps.

These employees were hired for a reason: they are competent; they are educated; and they have experience. In other words, this isn’t their first rodeo. Once they learn the basics of how your company works, what the processes are, and what the expectations are, then they should be good go. If they are micromanaged after that point, it can cause a few issues:

• Employees will be distracted by constant monitoring.
• Employees will feel like they aren’t trusted by the employer.
• It will cause stress and frustration.
• It will limit employees’ feelings of empowerment, accountability, and responsibility.
• Micromanaged timelines may actually slow down efficient employees.
• Constant updates and status meetings will take time away from the actual task at hand.
• It will kill employees’ drives to be creative, innovative, and find better solutions.
• It will make employees question their abilities and limit their professional growth.
• It will make employees feel disrespected.
• And—it’ s just generally suffocating.

When I was recruiting, I used to hate it when I received a job order alert, and within a minute my manager was hounding me about filling the order. At that point, I had barely even got time to read the job requirements before she was down my back. (I often wondered if she had some sort of super power to read the e-mail and get to my desk that fast). Anyway, she started to come off hostile by doing this and employee morale went down tremendously. The stress from being micromanaged caused employees to be unhappy at work to the point where absenteeism and turnover became high. Without these employees present, the company lost a lot of business because there wasn’t enough manpower to keep them competitive.

If you want employees to be happy and engaged, then give them the freedom to do their work. They are capable professionals. The best thing a manager can do is to give employees clear goals and timelines then allow them to work on it without having their every move observed. Even without micromanaging, managers can still make themselves available to the employees if they have questions or need guidance. Perhaps this is a suggestion to keep both ends happy?

If you’re a micromanager, please try to loosen up the control a bit. Your employees will appreciate you for it and you may end up discovering that giving them the empowerment will allow them to be more productive. Giving them the “why” in their training can allow them to be exceptional employees without the need for hand-holding.

Links:
Ted.com
Forbes-How to Manage a Micromanager

Putting Yourself Out There

As I was thinking about what I wanted to put in this post today, I realized that I’m surrounded by some pretty amazing people. Daily conversations with them have allowed me to easily come up with topics to write about. The theme of this weekend seemed to surround the idea of pursuing the things you want in life. Of course, going after the things you love and want can be terrifying and most people find ways to talk themselves out of doing it. However, sometimes you just need to put yourself out there and see what happens.

A few months ago I was talking to my cousin, Andrea Daniel, about work, life, and everything in between. She and I are a lot alike in the sense that we are the “wanderers” and “adventurers” of the family. She’s been a bit braver about going after the things she wants, though. She’s lived in multiple states, traveled a bunch, and even studied abroad on a cruise line to allow her to visit multiple countries. I’ve always been a bit more cautious for fear of failing, so I’ve always admired her courage to not hold back and also her relentless nature to roll with the punches.

In our conversation, she told me that if I really want to do something or really wanted to be somewhere, to just do it. She said to figure out a way to get where I needed to be and find a way to make it work once I got there. Going after the things you want in life aren’t always going to be easy and won’t happen overnight, but what kind of life would we lead if we never tried? Will there always be a part of us that tugs on our heartstrings, urging for more? Her advice has stayed with me and I’ve slowly started to follow it. Additionally, I’ve paid it forward and gave others the encouragement to put themselves out there.

First, I started with Jim Sweeney. Over the last six months I watched him get extremely excited about the idea to start a software development project that first specialized in apps and PC games, then eventually business software. He holds weekly meetings with the members of his group to go over ideas, recruit new members to fulfill different duties, and attempts to teach himself programming languages. I also saw him get a little deflated about the idea because he couldn’t find a programmer nor was he able to teach himself to be functional in coding on his own.

He was clearly passionate about it, seemed to love the idea of creating the software, and was trying hard to learn. So I asked him, “Why don’t you go back to school for it?” He told me that he didn’t have time to go back to school because he worked full-time. I wasn’t accepting that answer. I worked full-time the majority of the time I was going to school. I found a way to make it work by going to Thomas Edison State College. Of course, it took a bit longer to get my degree but I still got it.

Soon after our conversation, I introduced him to the college and now he is an enrolled student pursuing a degree in Computer Science. He will have his degree in about a year and I’ve never seen him happier. He knows that in 12 months he will have the capability to move forward with his project without having to rely on finding a programmer. It is empowering him to be able to make his dreams a reality from start to finish. Additionally, it would allow him to gain the skills to move forward with his current employer, Amazon.com.

Seeing someone who knows their dreams are within their reach can be inspiring. So, I took my own advice. Writing has always been a passion of mine but I never pursued it seriously because it always had a stigma that if you were a full-time writer, you would live the life of a starving artist (I don’t particularly like starving). Feeling like I would fail before I even started had me shy away from the idea in the past. But, like Andrea said, you need to just do it and make it work.

So here I am doing it. I haven’t been this mentally engaged or excited about something in a long time. Will the right person see this and offer me a job? Maybe. Will I end up paving my own way and make a career on my own doing this? Possibly. But even if neither of those things happens, the fact that these writings could potentially inspire even just a handful of people is enough for me. Making a difference in someone’s life by doing something I love is going to be marked off as a success in my book.

Now let’s fast forward to this weekend. My friend, Laura Grotzinger, just returned from a scuba-diving trip in Honduras. She was absolutely radiating with happiness and went on to discuss about how that trip got her back into doing photography and art. She went on to explain how she hoped to create photos, paintings, and inspirational posters using pictures from her travels and adventures. It was nice to see her doing the things she truly enjoys.

After she finally caught her breath from telling me all her wonderful stories, she took notice that I also seemed to have more of a positive demeanor since the last time she saw me. I told her about how I’ve been expressing my ideas through my blogging which has already allowed me to connect with some fascinating people who have introduced me to interesting concepts. I showed Laura how to use WordPress and she left my house even more ecstatic than when she first arrived (I didn’t think that was possible). She told me she couldn’t wait to create her own so she could display her art. Additionally, she planned on blogging about her other passion: travel. I watched her as she thoughtfully considered posts that intended on helping other travelers learn some tips for planning a trip. I hope her articles will help her land a dream job with Intrepid Travel one day.

So many people get discouraged from going after what they really want because those around them can sometimes be unintentionally unsupportive. The point of this posting is to show you that there is always a way and that it’s never too late. You can easily work on achieving your goals in your free time, step by step. It may be a slow process, but the fact of the matter is that you’re still doing it and that’s a win on its own. The first and most crucial step is to put yourself out there. Maybe those in your immediate circle aren’t giving you the support you need to take that step but trust me when I say that the world is big and you will find plenty of people to give you the encouragement and validation that you need. Give it a chance. I’m sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

With that being said, I’d like to give a big THANK YOU to my friends, family, acquaintances, and even strangers who have taken a moment out of their time to offer me kind words. That simple act of kindness and support has given me the courage to take that first step. I appreciate it beyond words.
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I’d love to hear more about your success stories or your plans to put yourself out there. Send me a tweet: @ashlaurenperez

Network with:
Andrea Daniel
Jim Sweeney
Laura Grotzinger’s Blog

http://laurasglobetrotting.com/
Companies/school mentioned:
Amazon.com
WordPress
Thomas Edison State College
Intrepid Travel