Learning: the acquisition of knowledge or skills through study, experience or being taught.
As the UK faces a nationwide skills shortage, ask yourself: How often do you do training or learn something new? If you aren’t stretching yourself regularly, are you adding to the problem?
As children we are constantly learning, evolving, developing…but as adults that learning curve seems to tail off. We get wrapped up in our roles, completing daily tasks, meeting targets – that we forget to learn. The consequences? Employees’ skills are becoming outdated and getting left behind as technology advances at a rapid pace.
I have recently been coaching a team of three developers. Each of them has a different approach to learning.
Developer 1 waits to learn from others, complaining when their colleagues are too far ahead and he can’t keep up. Developer 2 has the ability to learn, however feels threatened by Developer 3, who spends hours learning new things in his own time. Developer 3’s approach to work is that he will teach himself what he needs to know, in order to solve the new problems that technology is bringing.
Now, there is no right or wrong approach here. Perhaps Developer 3 has lost sight of a ‘work-life balance’! Or perhaps he loves his job so much, that learning is actually a pleasure for him. Some may call Developer 1 lazy, or say that Developer 2 is jealous. But that’s not the point! Learning shouldn’t stop when we become adults and get sucked up into the world of work. In fact, learning becomes more important than ever (unless you want to find yourself on the job scrap heap).
Learning is key to accelerating your career
Think about the three developers. Which camp do you fall into? Do you wait and complain? Or are you capable but worried about being shown up by someone more confident? Or do you just go for it, and lead the way? Which of those developers is most likely to get a promotion, be given greater responsibility, or retained if redundancies are to be made? Developer 3. The proactive self-learner, who really loves what he does.
A company who is getting learning right: C3 IoT
This American technology firm offer their employees $1000 for every training course they take. This means that not only can they hire employees with the potential to learn (rather than searching for candidates who tick all the exact requirements), but they also ensure that their employees keep their knowledge up to date. In fact, the desire to self-learn is one of their key requirements when hiring. For the employees – these training bonuses are not just financial, they feel more valued by their employees and appreciate the support given to their own personal and professional development. Read more about C3 IoT in this Case Study.
What can we learn from this? Learning should never stop
This approach to learning isn’t just limited to the technology industry. It applies to every role, in every industry. Change is so rapid that if you aren’t thinking about the redundancy of your skills or what you are doing, by the time you wake up you’re on the scrap heap! Across the UK companies are restructuring, shifting and evolving ahead of Brexit. Employers will be looking for candidates who are open to adapting, learning new skills and taking on new roles and opportunities. Are you open to a new career opportunity or challenge? Positioning yourself as open-minded and ready to learn will make you a whole lot more attractive to companies managing change.
Finding time to learn
So many of us find it hard to carve out time to learn things that don’t fire us up. The trick to staying relevant in today’s job market is to find something you believe in, something that you’ll love doing, and that ticks several of the criteria you set yourself that your work needs to contain.
While we would love to see all companies embracing the C3 IoT approach and giving their employees financial incentives to learn, that’s not likely to happen. But learning doesn’t need to involve expensive courses or costly resources. So often what we learn is free! It’s available online, in books, by talking to people, asking questions, attending events. All that costs is time and a little effort. And when it comes to learning, time is never wasted.
By doing this, the next time your employer is considering restructuring, you might just find yourself top of the ‘must retain’ list, rather than bottom of the pile.