Is the NBA the Next Frontier for Innovation?

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One of the most significant investments any business can make is in its staff. This goes beyond the simple fact of paying for salaries and benefits, however — in order to be a truly valuable element of a company, employees must be genuinely nurtured.

They should be provided with the tools and knowledge to become skilled contributors, and the incentive to use it innovatively. To quote Richard Branson, “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.”

The corporate sector has begun to understand just how important the training and education of employees is to the success of a business. This is why we’re currently seeing a propensity for companies to invest in Chief Learning Officers (CLOs) — experts in providing training within corporate environments. These educational executives have a deep understanding of how innovative training can enhance the company trajectory, and how to design programs which maximize the chances for success.

This holistic approach has been proven effective, and offers possibilities for businesses of all sizes. It is in a company’s best interests to encourage its employees’ consistent educational growth — both structured and self-driven. So what are some effective techniques that can be utilized across all departments?

Encourage Self-Driven Growth

One of the ways CLOs can encourage ongoing learning across the organization is with a greater emphasis on self-driven growth. This helps to provide a distinct competitive edge against those companies that will stagnate by limiting their learning to a rigid curriculum. This also helps to align learning that is personally fulfilling to the employee with skills that are beneficial to the business.

Where employees express an interest in acquiring new skills, businesses should empower them to learn independently, but with company support. Commit to providing the employee with 10 percent of their time at work to devote to self-driven education, whether you wish to limit this to subject matter relevant to their department, or widen the scope to your industry in general. Give them access to educational resources, such as books on business or even a stipend to invest in qualifications.

Focus during this personal growth time should also be directed at the employee stretching themselves, stepping outside of their comfort zone. Create opportunities for them to network on company time, allow them to represent the business at conventions, and so on. This provides the employee with valuable self-driven learning experiences, and presents a diverse face of the business to your wider industry. Employees will gain a deeper connection to their learning, which engenders a propensity for lifelong growth.

Incorporating Ed Tech

Creative utilization of new technology can help create a reputation for dynamic thought in business. Similarly, innovative use of technology in workplace education can give a company a serious competitive edge. CLOs have begun to discover the trends in EdTech, which can be transferred to a corporate environment, and use these to provide employees with enjoyable, effective learning experiences.

EdTech in a business environment presents in a variety of forms. E-learning platforms, whether designed by the company CLO or by external examining bodies, mean that employees can undertake their learning at their work computer on a schedule convenient to the company. VR technology has also become more affordable, meaning companies are able to provide employees with simulations of potentially hazardous situations in a safe environment.

Why does EdTech make a difference? Millennials now comprise the largest generation in the US workforce, and they are digital natives. They are comfortable and skilled with technology, and it is often their preferred method of communication, working, and learning. By working specifically with methods that cater to the digitally literate majority, CLOs can encourage education which suits the strengths of the workforce.

Peer Learning

While structured, classroom learning can certainly have its place in business, and employees often respond positively to peer learning. Guided by the CLO, experienced members of staff can make the most effective trainers on not just the general duties involved in their position, but also the nuances inherent in the role. This method of learning not only encourages participation in education, but also provides peer trainers with experiences that can develop their management potential.

From the perspective of the trainee, the peer-to-peer system offers learning that is undertaken in a familiar environment, by a member of staff they may find less intimidating than the CLO. They are also provided with reliable insight into how the topics of learning have practical applications in the success of the business, on top of reducing ambiguity into vital areas of the company, helping the trainee to better understand the challenges the business faces and how these can be addressed.

This can also be a valuable approach when managing changes to the company. The introduction of new technology, or alterations to workflow can be disseminated among the wider workforce by experienced peers. This also allows for stronger team-building experiences, as departments develop confidence in new technology and processes together, and assist each other through any difficulties.

Conclusion

When CLOs introduce innovative learning methods, they are not just seeking to use the latest technology or exciting techniques. It is just as much about finding ways to encourage employees to think outside the box. With a combination of independent and group techniques businesses can find effective ways for employees to incorporate frequent learning experiences into their daily working practices.

If you're running an innovation program, how do you find your next problem to solve?