How to Train Employees to Succeed in Today’s Changing Workplace
These days, everyone is in the software business. Even if you don’t work in IT, your company’s products and services depend on technology. Every day, your employees use databases, electronic communications and software programs to do their jobs. But if technology is the new ground under all of our feet, it is constantly shifting with new tools, new features and new updates. How is the training industry supposed to plan for tomorrow – or even keep up today?
This cultural and technological revolution is already underway, so your employees will have to adjust their assumptions. To adjust to constant change, your training programs need to shift from teaching new skills to cultivating new qualities. Although technology creates new challenges, it also brings new opportunities. By speeding up the feedback loop, we can now more easily sense what is going on inside and outside the company and then respond quickly. There are no recipes for your employees to follow, but there are qualities you can encourage through training and practice:
In today’s corporate environment, you can’t assume that anything will continue to work as it has in the past. Customers will surprise you, vendors will appear and disappear, and whole industries will turn on a dime. As a training professional, accept that you can’t predict what your company needs tomorrow or the next day, but you can train your employees to be comfortable with uncertainty and to cultivate resilience. Design programs that help your employees practice this new habit of mind.
As the marketplace changes, it’s harder to solve new problems in old ways. Teach your employees not to cling to what they already know but to be humble about what they don’t know. No one can answer tomorrow’s questions; that’s no longer a personal failing but everyone’s new status quo. This change in attitude, though, may meet resistance, so model it in your training programs. Show your employees that humility is not stepping down but stepping forward to enable new learning for new conditions.
Retrain your people.
These qualities helped a British print publication transform itself into a digital success story. When its counterparts were floundering to adapt to web publishing, AutoTrader UK shut down its print operations in 2013 and sped up its website updates. Every time it released a new product, it received instant feedback from customers. Even when the feedback was negative, it was an opportunity to learn and adjust.
But, as COO Nathan Cole admitted, AutoTrader UK was “digital by revenue, not nature.” All their day-to-day workflows were developed over decades in print production. Listening to their customers was only their first step; then, their employees had to adjust their ways of working. In order to succeed in a new marketplace, Cole argued, they needed “cultural change first. Then a business change, and lastly, a technological one.” That cultural change depended on retraining their people just as much as converting their operations.
In short, tomorrow’s training programs need to develop employees who can adapt to change. Instead of teaching new skills or behaviors, encourage new attitudes that will keep your employees relevant. Those are the employees who will make the biggest difference in your company’s future.
Jeff Gothelf is co-author of “SENSE & RESPOND: How Successful Organizations Listen to Customers and Create New Products” (February 2017, Harvard Business Review Press). He is an author, speaker and organizational designer who co-founded Neo Innovation (sold to Pivotal Labs) in New York City and helped build it into one of the most recognized brands in modern product strategy, development and design.