By Barbara A. F. Greene, founder and CEO of Greene and Associates, Inc. and past president of NAWBO San Antonio
What do small and large organizations have in common, besides making a profit? They “Got People” who look toward the CEO to show appreciation for them. Historic as well as present day motivators for the workforce go beyond salary. One key driver is for employees to feel valued by their company through career-growing opportunities.
One CEO enlightened a group of executives during his keynote speech about leadership by sharing the following. He started off his presentation with:
He asked this group of leaders who had visited his company—once, twice and three times. By a show of hands, 90% of the leaders indicated they had visited, which included attending corporate gatherings.
The CEO was ecstatic, repeat customers are a good thing. He went on to say, “I know you think that you, our customer, is the priority, and we are glad. We do appreciate you very much yet you might be surprised to learn that our highest priority is really focused on our employees.”
“It all starts with me, as I must model the way to gain the results we have sustained over the years. Our secret sauce is a winning learning culture with a dedicated team of innovators who develop and implement a strategic growth plan. You see, I figured out quickly that I do not know everything and that we need to ensure that each team member continually learn and grow.”
The CEO went on to share his challenges in implementing their growth plan, time and staff schedules. Their team of innovators created a plan that included a variety of learning activities yet there were two standouts. They included the following:
- Momentum Moment Highlight (MMH) – weekly
- Executives were too siloed and needed to learn about other areas in the company besides the areas they led.
- MMH was born.
- The executive team was responsible for identifying a standout employee each week. One executive would find an employee who they observed in action doing their work in a more unique way than expected, achieving similar or better results.
- The executive would surprise the employee by recognizing them with the MMH Award. In addition, the employee would attend the weekly executive team meeting, receiving a hearty response. Besides creating a positive experience for the employee, the executive team learned something new from them, thereby expanding their knowledge of the organization.
- Then the employee selected an executive that would repeat the MMH.
- Presentation requirements included:
- No PowerPoint
- Executive and MMH employee had 3 minutes to share their story.
- Be creative with a fun spirit.
- MMH was born.
- Learning Smorgasbord Snapshot – quarterly
- Highest volume of customers/guests was during a 4-month time period, when they were short staffed and there were obvious learning gaps with the supervisors.
- A 7-day smorgasbord of learning options was created with a variety of topics and experiences in which the employees selected to participate. They were required to participate for 10 hours as part of their full-time career.
- Topics, experiences and times varied, giving supervisors the option to own their learning platform.
- Learning platforms included 2 hours of topics, scavenger hunts, evening team socials and self-directed learning such as a podcast.
- The Learning Smorgasbord Snapshot was created out of necessity to engage 100% of the supervisors and it was achieved.
- It started out with the 7 days, thinking it would be a one-time learning exchange, yet was launched quarterly.
Both of these learning experiences were a hit, and the company continued these formats for several years. The CEO definitely modeled the way as he participated in the activities, too.
The large company example can be duplicated in a similar fashion within a smaller company. However, with small businesses, we have experienced the following learning options:
- Engage an Intern:
- Interns, college or high school students are a breath of fresh air and can require lots of patience. All the more reason for the current staff of a company to get involved. The staff tend to do better in their roles as they are in a teaching mode daily.
- Co-mentoring occurs with the intern and employee. They discover what they can learn from each other during the internship, and presto, it happens. A genuine commitment to helping each other be better occurs, fast tracking their knowledge and contributions to their employer.
- Books and Bags:
- Who has time to read an entire book? Okay—an audible format can work? Businesses of all shapes and sizes found a quick yet deeper learning formula.
- What is the book? What is in the bag? Companies select a book that everyone reads within a certain timeframe such as over 6 weeks. Each department partners cross functionally to read the book, two chapters a week with a facilitator.
- A company-wide learning session occurs with each department sharing an item in their What is in the bag? The item must be shown to everyone, and it correlates with the chapters they are responsible for sharing.
- Companies have been known to share What is in the bag? like a progressive dinner course.
These innovative learning initiatives are scalable and sustainable. A triple bonus to these type of learning initiatives is:
- They are low-cost with high impact.
- Team building occurs organically.
- Fun = 100% engagement.
About the Author…
Greene and Associates, Inc. is an organizational resilience company and equity partner with Career Partners International, comprising more than 300 offices in over 45 countries. Founded in 1996 by Barbara A. F. Greene, as a sole practitioner, the company has grown through referrals and draws upon a diverse group of professionals locally and globally to serve its clients. Learn more here.