(Editor’s note: Today’s post is brought to you by our friends at Paycom, a leading provider of cloud-based human capital management software. Paycom employees have donated more than $150,000 to community organizations such as Paralyzed Veterans of America, Project Aware, the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, and numerous health care nonprofits. A big thanks for their generosity and enjoy the article.)
In the book The Fifth Discipline, author Peter Senge introduces a concept called the “learning organization”. A learning organization is a company that facilitates learning within its culture and, through that process, continuously transforms itself. It’s this type of culture that allows organizations to grow both in terms of the products and services they provide and the talent they attract. Some companies that have been considered learning organizations include Apple, Toyota, and General Electric.
Senge identified five essential elements to becoming a learning organization: systems thinking, personal mastery, mental models, shared vision, and team building. While all of these components are equally valuable, let’s focus on one aspect – personal mastery. In particular, skills mastery.
4 Ways to Achieve Personal Skills Mastery
Before we talk about how to achieve personal mastery, let’s talk about what skills are. I’ve mentioned before how the terms knowledge and skills are often used interchangeably. And the vast majority of the time, that’s probably okay. But when we’re talking about learning, understanding the definition of a skill is important because it drives how mastery is achieved.
Skills are proficiencies developed through training or experience. Skills are not the theoretical understanding of a topic (that’s knowledge). Obtaining personal mastery involves having a self-awareness of the skills we possess and need, coaching and feedback about our performance, and lifelong learning. There are four primary learning processes where we gain mastery.
Retraining provides training (again) to workers. It often takes place after a merger, acquisition, or restructuring. An example might be retraining the accounting team on a new procedure for processing expense reports. They already know how to process reports, but they need retraining on the new way.
Upskilling is the process of acquiring new skills. It’s typically related to the job that the employee currently holds – for example, a programmer learning a new computer software program.
Reskilling involves learning new skills, but it’s usually for the purpose of transitioning to a new role. It could be for a promotional or lateral opportunity such as an administrative assistant learning how to code or an accounts payable clerk learning payroll.
Development takes place when an individual gains new knowledge and skills for the purpose of transitioning into a role of greater responsibility (i.e. management development). Often, when we think of development, it could involve multiple roles over the long term.
All of these learning processes are effective. The key is for HR departments, managers and employees to build these activities into their overall learning strategy. HR departments should have learning strategies that align with the goals of the business. Managers need to have learning strategies, so employees are able to perform at a high level. And employees want personal learning strategies to accomplish their career goals.
Technology Can Deliver Skills Based Learning
The good news is that all of these learning activities – retraining, upskilling, reskilling, and development – can be delivered through the use of technology. Here are three common technology learning methods.
E-learning is a concept we’ve all heard of. While its popularity waned in the ‘90s, the introduction of massive open online courses (aka MOOCs) brought e-learning back to the forefront. Personally, I believe the popularity of social media has also contributed toward making e-learning courses more interactive and engaging. Participants can gain global viewpoints and diverse feedback.
Self-directed learning is receiving a lot of attention these days. With an increased number of employees working remotely, self-directed learning allows employees to create their own learning plans that will meet their learning needs. The result can not only be personal skills mastery, but increased confidence and elevated overall performance.
Microlearning focuses on creating short, succinct pieces of content. Think activities less than five minutes in length. Not everything we have to learn takes a long time to master. In addition, it’s possible that the best way to master a skill is to learn it in small chunks. (I’m reminded of Bloom’s Taxonomy.) Microlearning is a great way to space out skills mastery over time for maximum retention.
Regardless of what’s happening in the job market or the economy, an organization’s competitive advantage is in its talent. That means talent development strategies, such as becoming a learning organization, are a key component to organizational success.
Organizations must consider how employees will gain skills mastery and put the infrastructure in place to make that happen. That includes learning activities, management support, and technology.
If you want to learn more about how technology can enhance your learning strategy, I hope you will join me and the Paycom team on September 17, 2020 at 2p Eastern for the webinar “Strategic HR Planning: Education as a Key Organizational Strength”. As always, if you’re already booked during that time, sign up anyway and get notification of the recording. And FYI – the program will be eligible for professional development credits (PDCs) from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). Look forward to seeing you there!15