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Blog : Discovering potential through learning


Discovering potential through learning

By Tom Goldfarb - Client Support, talent toolbox

When the famous poet, Mark Van Doren, said ‘The art of teaching is the art of discovery’, I bet he didn’t realise it could be applied to learning and development in the workplace. In essence, employee potential is endless however it can only be discovered when a ‘teacher’ spends time encouraging, challenging and developing an individual.

The issue however is that less time is being spent on this discovery. Since the start of the recession, many businesses have shifted their attention. Cost cutting initiatives such as redundancies, reduction in employee benefits and pay freezes, have come to the fore and been a priority. Sadly though, these things, whilst having an immediate saving, tend to cost more in the long-term. In their 2010 research, PwC revealed the cost of replacing an employee was approximately one times the outgoing employee’s salary.

This has caused a backlash and many organisations have had to review alternatives; what they can offer instead. And this is where things are looking up; learning and development has moved into the spotlight. Previously viewed, for many, as a ‘tick box exercise’, organisations now use learning and progression as employee engagement tools.

For us this makes complete sense. When we conducted our original research into employee core motivators, learning and development was placed in the top five; sitting above pay which came later in the list. Developing your people shows that you value your employees, that you want to invest your time (and in some cases, money) to help them reach their full potential. In return, it has been proven that they’re more likely to be productive, motivated, loyal and stay within the business – even when times are tough.

And since the dip in the economy, we’ve also seen far more creativity when it comes to learning and development programmes. There has been a significant increase in the number of businesses now using low or no-cost development initiatives and to great effect. In our book, Purple Your People: the secrets to inspired, happy, more profitable people, Jane Sunley outlines some of the methods she recommends:

  • Reading books and journals
  • Job-swaps and shadowing
  • Internet searches
  • eLearning
  • In-house libraries and other learning resources
  • 90 minute learning sessions
  • Coaching
  • Mentoring

One of my favourite examples is Lexington Catering, one of the Sunday Times Top 100 employers. They take their apprentices to Borough Market; teaching them about the ingredients used in their products, helping them experience an early morning, bustling marketplace, and allowing them to meet and build relationships with suppliers.

And at learnpurple we are, of course, passionate about developing our people; we continue to harness talent, challenge and encourage people towards their full potential. Regular meetings, open communication and access to highly skilled associates all help us drive our own progress.

Used correctly (i.e. not just sticking everyone in a room, giving them the same learning through a ‘chalk and talk’ methods) offering learning and development to your people can have a huge impact on engagement levels across the business. As seen, it doesn’t have to be costly, nor complicated; it just has to be right for your people.

So let’s follow Van Doren’s lead and start focusing on ‘teaching’ our people, developing them and helping them discover and reach their aspirations. After all, the possibilities are endless...

How do you nurture your people? Have you had to adapt your strategy because of the economic climate?

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