The World’s A Busy Place…
You are reading my first post in quite some time. There have been a large number of reasons for the delays in my writing, but I would say that the primary factor has been work. A lot of the time we allow ourselves to get bogged down in the routine, process and drudgery of our day to day activities. It gets to the point that we begin to see making it to closing time as an accomplishment of note. This type of mentality is poison. Not just to the person who has it, as quality and production starts to fall, but in the depths of a Canadian winter it can be quite contagious. The resulting impact is the almost complete elimination of any innovation, creativity or advancement, instead of becoming better your business will struggle to remain at par.
This complacency is particularly dangerous in an environment of a start-up or business that is just starting to get established. Without that spark and drive that got you through your first few months or years, you may be forced to watch all the fruits of that labour die on the vine as your business or organization struggles with stability. One of the best ways to foster continual innovation is to encourage the development of new skills and knowledge.
This commitment to the development of your staff is critical for several reasons, not the least of which is the fact that it keeps your organization agile. In all likelihood, if you are starting a business or have successfully started one, it’s because you and your organization were able to do something innovative and new, or do something better than your competitors. Otherwise, your business would have failed. So it should be a no-brainer that you can’t remain static and smug in this success you have to evolve, or you will be outflanked, in the same way, your company succeeded initially.
If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always got. -Attribution Disputed
Let’s face it, your staff no matter how excellent, dedicated or brilliant is 100% efficient and productive. Between checking their phones to getting the scores to last night’s game or reading the latest review of Game of Thrones, your staff will burn some time. This phenomenon is part of the cost of doing business and companies that over-police time in that manner often ends up losing some of their best talents.
One of the best ways I’ve seen of a business taking advantage of this natural digression was a former employer of mine. At this particular shop, the employees were encouraged to scope out and propose training initiatives for themselves. It would be worth 10 hours a month and as long as it did not interfere with project work the employees could complete this training at the office and get paid for it. That’s right this employer was not only swallowing the cost of overhead for their people to sit and learn but often they were also absorbing the costs of online courseware.
The catch was that all of these initiatives had to be pitched to senior management at a monthly one on one meeting. The value of the training had to be clearly thought out, and the benefits to both the employee and the organization had to be clear. I remember pitching the idea that I wanted to take some courses in photography, and although the course’s value was mutually agreed upon, inside my role it wasn’t seen as mission critical or the best use of my time. I instead opted to take the Google Partners Training and get Analytics and Adwords certified. A great skill that continues to serve me well in my endeavours.
This commitment on the part of the employer imparts three significant benefits.
One: The employee continues the development of their skills allowing for sustained competitive advantage within your market.
Two: The employee becomes actively engaged in the company and its continued success through innovation, all while developing a deeper sense of loyalty to the organization.
Three: Your business can make better use of those lost hours that are otherwise lost to non-productives and morale killing monotony.
Depending on your industry there are a vast number of online training options available. Here is a breakdown of some of my favourites that are reasonably priced and provide great and diverse course offerings.
Udemy is the WalMart of online e-learning. I mean that in the best way possible. For relatively low-cost, some courses are even free; you can learn some pretty useful skills from some of the world’s industry leaders as well as some self-proclaimed leaders. Like every WalMart however, there is a lot of cheap ultimately useless content that you have to sift through, although user reviews will help you filter out the truly horrific courses.
Free – $89.00*
Another U site that offers both free and paid courses. The difference here is that Udacity is more or less specifically designed for the I.T. sector. Want to learn to code? Want to find out how to build an app? Udacity offers a lot of great programs but what truly sets them apart from the pack is their partnerships and nano-degree programs. By partnering with companies like Facebook, Google and Amazon, Udacity has launched itself out of the cliche e-learning open sourced, looked down upon by academics spaces and now find themselves delivering unyielding programs that produce respected certifications.
Free – $1000
If you know of one e-learning site, this might be the one. One reason is that LinkedIn bought it for a billion dollars and then hounded their membership to join. Lynda does what it does, and it does it well. It’s lack of a well-developed testing process, or evaluation technology makes certification of its students almost impossible; however, Lynda still features the most consistently high-quality and informative training modules on the widest number of topics.
Monthly Subscriptions $49.00 – $100.00
These are just three of the hundreds of providers out there. Whatever your decision there are great ways to justify the costs and the benefits in both the short and long term will be substantial. You can also go the custom route and have a company design a course that is just for your organization, in that case, you should contact Contendo, that’s what we’ve been doing for the past nine years, but only because we keep looking for new and more innovative ways to do it.
So get out there and get learning.