February 2, 2021

5 ideas from my summer learning challenge to spark employee engagement

Valentina Coco Website Profile Picture
Valentina Coco
min read

William Pollard said that learning and innovation go hand in hand. Henry Ford says that anyone that stops learning is old, and anyone who keeps learning is young no matter the age.

Any google search about learning will bring up several more quotes from artist, politicians and business gurus.

Several studies that indicate that one of the top 3 driver to motivate and engage employees is learning and development, yet one of the top reason quoted by employees leaving (based on my empirical observations and several engagement surveys) is ‘lack of learning opportunities’. What are we missing?

Until this spring, I also believed that the majority of learning happens on the job. The best was is to learn by doing, fail and improve constantly. I couldn’t understand why our function training program had low attendance (both in the team to training session, coaching 1:1, lunch and learns) and on line training were barely accessed. Then I did the Linkedin #summerlearninglist challenge.

I chose 3 topics, started learning and I haven’t stopped. So is there a magic formula?

While I do realize that a summer challenge is not the same as integrating learning in our everyday job, I still believe that there are a few re-applicable lessons.

  1. Chose what you want to learn. The summer learning list was ‘free choice of topic’. Often in the office we limit the training opportunities to what is directly related to the job. I realized that creativity sparks motivation, and creativity is inspired from ‘new things’. I am not suggesting extreme changes, but promoting teams to learn about story telling, pitching, design thinking, teaching, mindfulness and stress management, or other topics that can relate to the business or the team, should be an option.
  2. Make the time. It is indeed true that most of the learning happens on the job, but employees (and managers) need to be able to set time for training. Be it a seasonal challenge, or regular hours, the workload needs to allow for different type of training to happen, and for a stress free mindset to be able to focus (without emails or requests to pop out for a second).
  3. Offer and sponsor diversity of topics and formats. Nowadays is really easy to find several training formats. The same topic is available via video, Live Web-seminar, Web courses which include group assignment, in person session etc, at different price range. To test the feasibility, I set up a reasonable budget for myself (this challenge was self-funded) and was able to fund training at different level (from intro to ‘train the trainers’) for more than 5 topics. Why not do the same for our teams? Keep some training budget for ‘must do’ team and corporate event, allocate the rest to be managed responsibly in alignment management. If everyone can chose not just what to learn, but how they learn best, they will be more likely to follow through.
  4. Environment matters. I found that my optimal learning environment was not my desk, and also not always the same. Personally, I learn tropics including formulas and definitions best while in a quite cubicle or at the library, and topics like diversity management, design thinking, and story telling when I am in a completely not work related setting (my garden, a coffee place, while walking). I would not be able to switch my ‘work mode’ off and be open to new experiences if I was at my desk. This means, that if we truly trust our teams to manage their work flexibly and remotely (and we all should), the same should apply to their learning.
  5. Create communities. One of the most exciting part of learning new topics from different platforms, was the connection to a different community of professionals, all with the same interest. I was able to build on my initial learning, further challenging myself simply by talking to different people. The public challenge and social media aspect was also a fun motivator. It gave me accountability, and the opportunity to brag a little via fun hashtags. Could we recreate the same in our corporate community? How about slack communities, some fun challenges, or even elevate our own learning hashtags on public forums?

These are just some of the ideas that this #summerlearninglist challenge sparked. I also see opportunities in team cross training of other teams, more resources for cross functional projects, but I believe that the biggest benefit is to give employees the opportunity to everyone to really merge their interest and their careers.

Valentina Coco Website Profile Picture
Valentina Coco
inclusive leader

I'm a connector, leader, change-maker, mother and coach. My experience of going through many burnouts motivated me to find solutions to improve the culture in the workplace and achieve more.

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