Innovation can’t happen without education and inspiration. Stagnation is the absence of creativity, and far too many teams aren’t using education as a way to keep the fresh and creative ideas flowing.

No matter what kind of team you lead—whether it’s an entire department, a few people who wear many hats, or even a group of students, education can inspire better productivity, quality, and engagement. The benefits of an engaged team are tremendous—one Gallup study showed that companies who successfully engaged their workforce performed 22% better in profitability and 21% better in productivity than companies in the bottom quartile for engagement. Not sure how to engage your team through education? Here are seven innovative approaches:

1. Set aside time for learning

Even companies that say they make employee development a priority don’t always mean it. Why? Because they expect every team member to be actively working all day. That’s just not realistic. New research has shown that we’re actually only productive for about three hours a day. Now, that’s not to say you shouldn’t expect great work from your employees. But it does mean you can probably afford to give them an hour or so a day to learn, whether that’s in a formal class, online training, or in-office development programs.

2. Sponsor educational programs

Learning at the office or in the classroom is great, but sometimes you need a little outside help to engage and inspire teams. See if your company or school will sponsor the cost of conferences or camps for your team. Could your marketing team use some new ideas? Send them to a weekend conference and have them soak up the excitement and innovation. Does your class need a reason to get excited about math and science? Send them to a STEM summer camp.

3. Don’t always hire from the outside

Employees love the opportunity to grow and advance within the company. There are new jobs popping up in nearly every industry that can be difficult to hire for, since few people have experience. Why not train for those skills from among your existing employees? If your team is self-motivated enough and you give them the resources they need (whether that’s an online course, a mentor, or even sponsoring courses toward a degree), there’s no reason someone on your existing team can’t thrive in a new role.

4. Do a guest lecture series

If you want to get your team excited about learning, you need to offer training in things they’re interested in. Poll the office and find out what relevant topics the team is interested in. Then, invest in bringing some guest lecturers into the office to inspire and train the team. This is a great lunchtime activity, especially if lunch is on the office.

5. Create the goal, leave them to the process

Often, it’s the most satisfying to learn by doing. Get the team together and hand out some interesting projects they’ve never done before. Set a reasonable goal or objective, then remove yourself from the process. Don’t micromanage. Give your team the tools they need to succeed, but let them figure out how to accomplish the goal on their own. They’ll be more engaged, learn more, and be more innovative if they have to use their creativity to solve the problems that come up.

6. Have team members share their expertise

Everyone on the team brings a unique set of skills to the table. Leveraging that talent is a great way to educate the team and give your employees a chance to lead, teach, and build confidence. Consider skill shares—employees sign up to teach certain skills, then prepare a presentation on that skill. Be sure to build in time for creating these presentations so your team doesn’t feel overwhelmed by additional responsibility.

7. Share inspiring case studies

When your team doesn’t see what their work could lead to, it’s hard to get them invested in development and innovative ideas. Sharing inspiring business case studies during meetings or lunch-and-learns can be a great way to get everyone excited about developing their skills and contributing to the larger goal. Innovation, engagement, and success all come from excitement, inspiration, and hope.


By Ryan Ayers

About the author

Ryan Ayers has consulted a number of companies within multiple industries including information technology and big data. After earning his MBA in 2010, Ayers also began working with start-up companies and aspiring entrepreneurs, with a keen focus on data collection and analysis.

Featured image via Unsplash.