This brings me to that final point. Having a learning culture requires a plan for each employee and for different types of jobs. It requires coordination between the official training department, managers, HR, and the subject matter experts throughout the organization. It may look a bit messy. It may include some mix of internal training, external resources, job shadowing, self-study, and group learning. I’d argue that a true culture that promotes and encourages learning would leave open all of those possibilities. I’d also argue that your training staff isn’t just there to teach classes but to provide and coordinate all of those options. They are there to “provide opportunities to learn and grow”, whatever those look like for all of your employees who wish to do so. They are key to retention but they cannot do it alone. The culture must reward and encourage learning and growth in meaningful ways or all the training staff in the world won’t make a difference.
Wouldn’t it be a better choice to locate candidates with some of the skills you’re going to need in a position and know that you have an environment that will help them grow and learn to become exactly what you need to be? Wouldn’t that practice become a way to attract really smart people who want to grow and learn by coming to work for you? Doesn’t that sound like a better option than simply leaving your open jobs unfilled and lamenting the fact that no one wants to work anymore? Unfortunately, there are too many organizations that simply won’t consider this. They aren’t interested in growing the people who work for them, they only want to hire people who can come in with no effort on the organization’s part and do the work starting on day one.
I think they are short-sighted.
The one that gives me pause is the last bullet, but not because leaders shouldn’t have that knowledge, but more because human nature tells me that is the one most likely to be misused and create really uncomfortable situations. There’s a very fine line between being aware of signs of someone struggling and diagnosis. I absolutely do not want anyone in the workplace diagnosing people. Watch out for signs of stress and ways you can support the folks who work for you proactively? Sure. Decide for yourself that they have depression, or should be referred to an Employee Assistance Program? Not so much.
But, here’s the thing I will fully admit when saying this. Avoiding this type of behavior is absolutely something that solid mental health training should be a part of. I’ve heard far too many instances lately where organizations are reading a lot about mental health, and burnout, in the workplace and then dispatch their managers to have conversations with their teams about it, and zero training.
Those conversations are dangerous. You have to enable your leaders to go into those conversations with some education and expertise on the subject Just telling them to go and have the conversations without getting them up to speed on how to do so, creates a situation that is likely to end up with some very alienated employees.
The shift in tech skills is one of the contributing factors, but it’s not that technology has been changing, because that ALWAYS happens. It’s the insistence that employers can find people with a skill that didn’t even exist 2-3 years ago instead of actually developing the people they already have, or hiring people who can continue to adjust and learn these skills.
How many jobs are going unfilled because you’re looking for someone with expertise in a technology that has only been around for the last 1-2 years? How do you expect there to be a bunch of experts on this technology? How do you expect recent graduates to be familiar with the technology that their college curriculum hasn’t even caught up to yet?
It’s not possible. So you might want to start adjusting your hiring, recruitment, and staff development processes, because that’s how you shrink the talent gap, by creating the talent yourself.
It may not be a huge surprise to know that I agree with Neil Gordon on this one:
“It turns out that a public speaker’s most important asset isn’t their theatricality, their story, or how extroverted and boisterous they are.
It’s their capacity to help their audience to believe that change is possible.”
Apparently it has been around for awhile, but RMIT University in Australia created a font that is specifically designed tor retention called Sans Forgetica.