Research by the Center for Creative Leadership tells us that up to 90% of what we need to know to do our jobs, we learn on the job.
So how can managers and organizations foster on-the-job learning that broadens or deepens an employee's knowledge, skills, abilities and experience? Here are a number of suggestions you might try:
- Ensure managers give their employees performance feedback and coaching at least once per week.
- Pair less skilled or experienced employees with high performers who act as their "work buddy" and guide their work, answer questions, share their knowledge/skills/experience.
- Assign a stretch goal that takes an employee just beyond their comfort zone and challenges them to try something new or different, and acquire new skills and experience.
- Assign an employee to a short term "acting role" where they temporarily take on some or all of the duties of another.
- Ask an employee to diagnose and/or suggest resolutions for a problem.
- Assign work on a cross-functional or cross-cultural team.
- Invite an employee to research emerging technology or a new trend in your field and give a presentation on their findings.
- Assign work on a high-stakes project.
- Assign work that exposes the employee to another part of the organization.
- Allow an employee to shadow another employee who is in a more senior role or in a different but complementary role.
- Invite an employee to use their core skills in a different application (for example, technical writer creating marketing materials, trainer providing technical support, etc.).
- Assign an employee to train or mentor another employee.
- Assign an employee to work with a low-performing or challenging employee.
According to the Center for Creative Leadership, any developmental assignment should provide the employee with at least one of the following:
- Unfamiliar responsibilities
- New directions
- Problems to fix
- High stakes
- Different cultures
- Cross-functional teams
- The need to influence without authority
- Problem employees
By carefully considering an employee's developmental needs when assigning work, and looking for on-the-job opportunities that address learning needs, you can create a work environment that supports ongoing employee growth and success.