Posted by Dr. Linda Sharkey on 9.12.2019
“Everything is changing, as you know, Dr. Sharkey. What we know as the future of work today could be different tomorrow. This intimidates many of my employees. They fear a robot will take over or a better-trained candidate will move in to claim their role. I’ve heard a lot about lifetime learning mindsets, but I don’t know how to make it a true part of my employees’ experiences. Can you guide me on this?”
“Education is not preparation for life: education is life itself.” -- John Dewey
Learning is such a critical part of success for the 21st-century workplace and it cannot be ignored. No job or career will look the same or require the same skills tomorrow that it does today. This means the employee experience must evolve as well.
So, learning is essential to stay ahead of the curve and help employees improve their careers. In fact, many employees upskill on their personal time to keep up with their careers.
But, as you said, how does someone develop that learning mindset? It starts at an early age. When a child learns to ask questions and explore things they don’t know, there’s an attitude of exploration. This same attitude must be built into the workplace as well.
Here are five things you can do to develop an exploration and the lifelong learning mindset:
Be open to inquisitiveness and even build it into your dialogue with employees. Ask them what is puzzling them about what they are doing and guide them in finding the insight to answer their own questions.
This helps them take ownership of their learning. Never discourage this trait of asking questions and using inquiry to grow. Also, assign new roles to people and have them step out of their comfort zones. Our research at HP discovered that our best leaders are those who take on different and new challenges that stretched them.
The military has a wonderful practice of “after action reviews.” Once a task is completed or a project is done, the team gets together and talks about what they learned, what they could have done better, and what they may need to do next time based on what worked or didn’t.
This is one of the best ways to get someone to reflect on what they have learned -- and they may not even realize it until they stop and think about it. At GE and HP, we asked leaders to reflect and share how they personally developed as leaders and what some of their biggest personal challenges where.
It was amazing to hear the stories they shared with new and upcoming leaders. The leaders themselves learned so much and were refreshed from their reflection and the dialogue with young leaders.
I grew up in a family that always talked about what you learned and what you were looking forward to learning the next day. In many ways, this was a simple way of setting learning goals.
However, I took it to my work arena and always targeted something new that I wanted to learn. This action has served me very well. I am a learning junky. You can build this into your workplace by simply asking an employee what they want to learn or what they are planning to learn in the next several months.
This mindset can also be included in your performance reviews. Incorporating this step in performance reviews makes the experience more dynamic and employee directed. To keep it moving forward, be sure to support the “learning.”
Have learning sessions where everyone goes around the table and talks about the one big “ah-ha moment” they have had. Also, consider fun learning rewards every step of the way.