High performing industries take the link between learning and excellence seriously. Leaders in these industries know the link between the development of their people and the evolving demands of new client expectations, technology and competition. They know that if they want to keep up with the developments of their profession they have to move beyond what they know now, and grow their team.
Excellent companies take the time to develop their people in smart ways, and I call this ‘The Magic Beans Principle.’ You’ll recall the story of Jack and the Beanstalk, where Jack learns how his beans are valuable, though at first hard to justify.
For leaders in any field, training is their magic beans, and can protect them in times of change. In 2007 the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) states that:
“Research in 2007 confirms that firms that don’t train are 2.5 times more likely to fail than those who do. Now is precisely the time to keep investing in the skills and talents of our people. It is the people we employ who will get us through. When markets are shrinking and order books failing, it is their commitment, productivity and ability to add value that will keep us competitive.”
The letter further goes on to say: “From our experience in previous downturns, it was the businesses that did invest in their staff which saw the most dynamic recovery.”
A quick look at other research supports this in terms of effectiveness. Take two people: one with training and one without. The person who has been trained has been shown to be between twice and six times as effective as the non-trained person. The benefits can be simple: they don’t have to stop and consult to determine their next step. They waste less time on re-starting tasks again and again, and they can proactively predict and plan around problems in multiple tasks. It is also important to remember that a trained workforce is more motivated, can adapt to change and finds more purpose in their work.
This is particularly important in the facility management industry as we answer the question ‘what is it we manage?’ As this field of work has changed, so have the demands on its professionals become more about management and less about facilities. The current literature reveals developments in security, complex systems, green technology and social psychology among the areas that require serious thought and practical solutions. To lead in such complexity requires that our people continually develop their skills, and this implies a good training strategy.
Consider this for yourself, and ask yourself: ‘What am I doing now that I wasn’t doing 5 years ago?’ How much of this is the result of continuous improvement in people capacity? Of innovating new ways to work? You might also be asking: “What might I need to be doing differently next year?”
In our programs, when looking at how to develop a learning organisation, we ask participants to survey their skills and knowledge development. We track it between formal and informal learning, and intentional and responsive learning.
The 70:20:10 rule is a good rule of thumb for where you need to be putting your time. This rule states that:
• 70% of all learning happens informally, on the job
• 20% of all learning happens through formal coaching and daily management on the job
• 10% happens in the classroom
Interestingly, it is the final 10% that receives most of the intention in a training development plan.
How can we improve in the informal learning category? A good training strategy will assist informal learning when the facilitator helps team members develop positive communication skills, peer coaching, knowledge about group development and shared leadership responsibility. Other skills such as project management, job swapping, acting up, informal feedback, and team learning are helpful as well.
Twenty percent of learning will happen based on formal coaching and feedback. This is largely the job of the manager of the team, and points to the further importance of leadership and management skills. A study by Olivero, Bane and Kopelman (1997) found that a classroom training exercise results in 22.8% improvement in performance. If that classroom exercise is matched with effective, solutions-focused coaching and feedback as a part of daily management the results can go up to 88% improvement. Leaders and managers need to be trained, and train their teams, in the importance of coaching, and what effective coaching means.
Finally, ten percent of all learning happens in the classroom. For this training to be effective, though, we need to shift away from the traditional way we were taught, ourselves. There is nothing worse than boring, ineffective workshops. Leaders in the training industry, in fact, have begun to shift away from the way many continue to learn in most classrooms, including most universities.
I recently began a workshop with a group of highly educated engineers. Many of them came in, set up their notebooks and prepared to take notes. The first thing I got them doing, though, was to talk about their experience, develop answers together, build solutions and adapt new research to their current trends. They were moving about the room, laughing and arguing as we went. The workshop time was passing quickly and lunchtime soon arrived.
One of the engineers turned to his friend, and asked: ‘This is great. But when do you think he’s going to start the lecture?’
‘Mate, I don’t think he’s going to lecture,’ his colleague replied. And he was right.
The traditional method of classroom teaching relies on an assumption that all listeners have excellent verbal and listening skills, passive acceptance of ideas, and frankly, more patience than we should have with Power Points. Traditional learning also trusts that short-term memory automatically translates to long-term memory. These assumptions do not carry for everyone, and this is is not the way our brain works most effectively.
It is helpful, therefore, to find a trusted provider for training and development. I suggest you find a provider who understands what really works in terms of learning styles, motivation and emotionally intelligent facilitation. A good training provider will often provide coaching for individuals as a part of the training program, to capatalise on informal and responsive learning. Most importantly, a good training provider will motivate participants to take action, and keep your people coming back.
As suggested here, good training strategy is a key team leadership issue. This includes teaching your team how to teach each other, having good management and coaching skills, and a effective workshops. When workers are involved in working together — communicating, problem solving, improving efficiencies, innovating, giving feedback, challenging, keeping excited about new developments — what we find is that the learning in the organisation is exponential.
Please ask yourself: What are you hoping to create in your role at work? One main difference between a great organisation and an ordinary work group is that the excellent team sees their work as a learning process, and continually return to the question: ‘Can we do this better?’ Leaders of these teams look to a comprehensive strategy for growing their team members as the key to answering that question. This is the magic bean that will lead to new discoveries and capabilities into the future.