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Learning and Growth

Employers frequently request a new process or strategy for doing work or interacting with customers. Why do so many of these initiatives die out? Because they aren’t supported on the job and workers aren’t given the encouragement they need to put new actions in place.

The change process requires goal-setting, support, and reinforcement. Without these critical factors, things will usually stay the same. Learning and growth should be encouraged in every environment through development plans.

Development plans

Change should be self-directed. Each person should seek out growth through his own initiative. Development plans should be tailored to the individual, so it incorporates her interests and goals. Each person has a different starting point and is going to a different place.

Development plans should focus on:

Small goals – Manage your time better” isn’t a clear goal. Instead, you should set some small goals. For example, you could decide that an employee should leave the office by 5 p.m. three times a week without taking work home with her.

Frequent success – People succeed more frequently with smaller goals. For example, asking a person to work on her delegation skills by handing over two tasks each day to one of her employees is setting a goal that she can succeed with.

Evaluating

It’s important to encourage and evaluate the behaviors that employees are learning. New behaviors should become part of the performance evaluation process. But, before employees are rated, they should have other support systems in place. To support integrating new skills and techniques into working life, you should

Value the right behavior – Make sure the behaviors you ask for are the ones you value. If you say you want good customer service – reward it. It’s easy to set conflicting goals like quality service and speedy customer interactions. This confuses employees, and they’ll pick the behavior that’s rewarded.

Encourage employees – Encourage people to try new behaviors. Give them opportunities to practice in a non- threatening environment. If workers have to use a new machine to produce products, let them practice first without time or quality expectations.

Provide support – Support for new skills is especially important. Mentoring, buddy systems, and teams can reduce the stress involved in learning. It also helps to approach learning as a team. Some groups have weekly meetings to discuss how to put learning in place.

Establish measurements – Find ways to measure learning. Set small goals, such as, “During week two, let’s move to a three-day timeline for processing the loans we’ve learned about.” Celebrate the success, then move to a new goal. “During week four, we’ll try for a two-and-a-half day timeline.”

Provide feedback – Feedback is critical to the change process. Employees should receive positive and growth- oriented feedback about how they’re implementing new skills. They should receive suggestions and constructive criticism so the new skill is implemented effectively.

It can be difficult to change behaviors. However, this learning process is an important key to emotional intelligence. If employees receive the proper support while they’re trying to integrate new behaviors into their work days, they’re more likely to be successful.

As employees improve, they increase the team’s knowledge, abilities and, most important, the team’s ability to grow and adapt.