Founder & Head Coach/CEO, The Funds2Orgs Group.
Business leaders and workers have spent a lot of time in 2020 licking their wounds. Virtually everyone was affected by the pandemic and its impact on the economy. As a business leader and owner, I’ve found three things that ensured we did not close and, even more importantly, that placed us in a position to thrive:
1. We reacted with speed and flexibility to make decisions sooner rather than later.
2. Our team listened to our market and then made adjustments to our planning, as warranted.
3. We reacted in the moment. In other words, in the pandemic’s early days, we acted decisively to stem the bloodletting when business seemed to dry up. We could not plan for the closures that happened. But, we could respond to them as they happened.
Thankfully, our business portfolio brands stabilized economically, and now we’re even positioned with increased market share. However, there’s one other element that was essential for our success: the innate curiosity and innovative nature of our team.
Why A Culture Of Learning Matters
Before the pandemic, businesses already dealt with a burgeoning reality: artificial intelligence and machine learning are playing a bigger and bigger role in society.
From customer chatbots to communications channels — such as Slack — to project management platforms, recruitment, operations and worker scheduling, automation is occurring at warp speed. According to the Gartner 2020 Market Guide for Workforce Management Applications (registration required), “By 2024, at least 99% of new workforce management application sales will leverage cloud-based deployment models.” The report also found that 45% of corporations with hourly workers will have automated their workforce’s scheduling decisions by 2025.
What that means for every worker and business is that ultimately, to compete, you must integrate AI with human workers. It also requires your team to have some skills that you may not have needed in the past.
The Skills Successful Digital Workers Possess
The people you hire now must, of course, have the technical skills to do the job, but they must also know how to operate in an increasingly digital world. And they must have the desire to learn and grow continuously. Systems change. Digital platforms get updated. Technology improves from one year to the next — all of it requires human learning.
Moreover, because learning is now baked into the cake of any job, you need to recruit and retain creative people. More creative people will figure out new ways of integrating more AI into your business. You also require emotionally intelligent people, so there is an irony to automation. The more we go digital, the more essential it is for teams to understand how to interpret communication and build human relationships that may not be face to face.
How Your Company Can Create A Culture Of Learning
Automation means your business has to create a culture of learning. Not only do you want to recruit and retain people who have the drive to learn, but you want to develop a learning environment. Here’s how:
1. Learning has to become a core value. Now is the time to look at your mission and values statement. A culture of learning has to be ingrained in everything you do. That begins with the leaders’ acceptance and support and embedding it into your core values.
2. Learning has to become one of your performance metrics. In an automated world, almost anything can be measured. To reinforce the idea that your business values learning (and innovating) at its core, you have to ensure that learning becomes a job performance metric.
3. Create traditional and nontraditional learning approaches. Let’s say that you get new automated platforms. You could have formal training sessions on the platforms for conventional learning. However, you should also encourage nontraditional approaches, such as using the buddy system, for more customized one-on-one learning.
4. Ensure that making mistakes is OK. For people who may not be used to so much technology, you have to allow for mistakes and learning opportunities if they are willing and excited to learn. Remember, older workers, in particular, may require a bit more time to learn new platforms. Allow them the space to learn and make mistakes.
Finally, remember that learning is companywide. In our business, everyone gets hands-on training and reinforcement on our customer relationship management tools, and we invite people to offer suggestions for customization and adaptation for efficiencies. We also push our teams harder to innovate and stay on top of things. For example, because we continually reimagine our brands, our marketing team always has to stay on top of developments with search engine optimization, social media and evolving search engine marketing strategies to ensure our sales pipeline.
In short, we’ve created an ecosystem where departments understand that they’re reliant on other departmental areas. Because of this, learning is a natural byproduct of the work being done. Everyone in our company knows — without me having to say so — that we want the latest thinking, and we seek to test the most innovative ideas.