How to Promote Social Learning

#TChat has done it again! Another wonderful chat last Wednesday has given me some really great information for today’s blog post. Last week we discussed the importance of promoting a learning culture in the workplace. Many participants chimed in and let us know what they suggested in order to create in an environment where social learning could succeed. As usual, the chat is comprised with some really fantastic people that had some great input on the topic.

An environment and workplace culture that promotes continuous learning is key in aiding a company towards a constant, successful future. Here are some ways you can encourage learning within your workplace:

  • Don’t hand out answers: If someone comes to you looking for help or an answer, make them think.  Ask them questions that could help them learn where to look for a useful resource, or ask them questions to help them critically think and potentially come up with the answer on their own. Sometimes people know the answer, they just need a question to help them lead to it.
  • Create a safe environment: Allow people to feel like they can freely voice their thoughts, feelings, suggestions, and concerns without being judged.
  • Encourage people to challenge the status-quo: Things change because people question if what’s currently in place is relevant. Allow people to challenge what is currently there so they can investigate new trends and resources and hopefully come up with a better solution that will work presently or in the future. This can allow business progression.
  • Encourage people to share: Allow people to come to you and openly share new resources for learning and information. Sometimes people can find new things that the L&D or HR department may have never stumbled upon.
  • Be adaptable: Things change fast, so be sure to keep up. Don’t teach things or use methods that are out of date, otherwise you may have reversed learning and growth rather than helped.
  • Be open to different learning options: Many people think that learning is only conducive in classrooms and workshops but technology has opened up other outlets for learning. For example, I learned so much from different professionals that I networked with via Twitter chats and LinkedIn discussions. I never thought those social media sites would be as useful as it truly was.

Learning is important for your employees’ personal and professional growth. When your employees grow, they are able to bring more to the table and help your company reach new heights. Promote learning in your company- it can benefit all that are involved.

For more information about this topic, check out Meghan Biro’s article in Forbes and the #TChat Slideshow that Sean Charles created.

Also, be sure to join #TChat on Wednesdays at 7PM EST

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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