If your business isn’t innovating, it’s dying. It doesn’t matter how big you, or your capital reserves, are, some startup has you in its sights. Don’t believe us? Consider this: 88% of Fortune 500 companies from 1955 no longer exist. Companies are already aware of this and looking for solutions to future proof themselves.
Employee education is one potential solution, but how effective is it really? And if it’s to be truly effective, what form should it take?
Learning in a changing world
The case for employee education as a strategy for future-proofing your company is a fairly obvious one on the face of it. The world of business changes quickly. Things that were true in social media, search, and technology just a few years ago are meaningless today.
If you’re lucky, you’ll have hired the kind of people who are motivated enough to teach themselves new skills. But if they already feel overworked, chances are they’ll make the move to a company willing to give them the time and space to learn a new skill.
As HCmag points out, education and training are vitally important to anyone entering the workforce today. And while they know they can set their own educational and career paths, mentorship is still important when it comes to proactively identifying courses and projects to build workers’ skills.
So if you’re going to ensure you always have the skills you need going into the future, you can either go through the expense of constantly making new hires or ensure that your current staff have the skills they need to deal with the changes in their positions.
The right kind of learning
Of course, it’s important to note that there are different kinds of learning. We’ve already mentioned job-based skills. But those are only a very small part of the story. And in any case, if you rely solely on learning for job-skills, you’re probably going to lag everyone else.
What you need is a form of education that encourages your employees to do the kind of things that make disruptive companies so dangerous: innovate, experiment, and make mistakes.
As Inquisition co-founder Vincent Hofmann told us in our interview with him, learning should be an inherent part of every job.
He also points out that we need to dismantle “the idea that learning only takes place in a classroom and that learning only takes place in the single individual’s mind”.
The latter of those two is particularly important when it comes to innovation. That’s because it’s seldom something that happens in isolation. Instead, it relies on people coming together for moments of serendipity.
As Hofmann points out, the Agile and Lean communities are particularly good at this kind of collaborative learning. Moreover, they do it for the sheer joy of learning.
“They’re trying stuff on the team,” he told us. “No one’s telling them that as soon as you try this stuff out and if you successfully try it and your business unit grows more efficient, you’ll get a certificate”.
And when that happens, learning becomes fun rather than a chore.
More than just education
To put it another way, innovative, experiment-driven learning isn’t something you can implement with a formal employee education programme.
Instead, it has to be ingrained in the company culture. And that means the whole company, not just a few select employees in a few select departments.
If a company is going to embody this kind of open spirit of learning, then people have to feel free to share their ideas, to make decisions, and to collaborate to fill in areas where the company is weak.
That, in turn, allows employees to view unknowns as opportunities. And in those kinds of companies, people are a lot less likely to say “but this is the way we’ve always done things” when faced with a new challenge.
It’s also important to remember that even businesses that have done everything possible to future-proof themselves are occasionally blindsided by something no one saw coming.
Business is difficult. You can do a lot to make it a little easier, but that’s one thing that’s always been true and will remain so far into the future.