The quotation taped to my monitor from Benjamin Franklin reads: “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” What is learning? The dictionary says it is the acquisition of knowledge or skills through experience, study, or by being taught. What are the benefits of learning? For your business, employees who learn stay more engaged, likely become more productive, and can acquire new skills to be used on the job. Employees also see personal benefits, such as keeping their brain agile, fighting boredom, and staving off dementia. The final question…how to learn.
Set a time for learning
For me, I find it helpful to start my day reading newsletters and other communications to learn what’s new and pick up ideas I can share with my readers. I subscribe to various private and government resources that post or send daily information. It’s because of my learning strategy that I started Idea of the Day® to share a daily business tip. In my opinion, this brief idea and a resource to follow up is a good learning tool. One of my subscribers said: “I love your ideas of the day! They have become an instrumental part of my learning!” Another said: “Getting your daily email is like getting an MBA in small business.”
My first-thing-in-the-day strategy for learning may not work for everyone, though some owners may find it useful. The good news is that there are so many other ways for owners to learn and to enables employees to do so too.
Businesses that foster learning may want to do “brown bag” lunchtime learning. The company can pay for the lunch and provide the speaker—from within the company or an outsider—to share something new with staff. The cost business meals is 50% tax deductible, while the cost of any outside educational assistance is fully deductible.
Businesses can also set up mentoring arrangements within the company, with skilled or seasoned employees guiding new workers to learn and to improve their job performance. And, of course, businesses can pay for employees’ education or training courses. The company can deduct the expense and it’s tax free to employees and exempt from payroll taxes as long as it meets certain requirements (see page 10 of IRS Publication 15-B).
Owners may participate in peer groups (think CEO coaching), such as Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO), Vistage, and Young Presidents Organization (YPO), to learn from others. These groups provide feedback and hold owners accountable. There are minimum business qualifications and annual costs, but the learning may well be work the price.
Learning in the work flow
Harvard Business Review has an article explaining how to incorporate learning into daily work. The article says that “when teams don’t find ways to learn as they work, they limit their performance. But when they find their learning flow, it becomes so embedded into daily routines and rituals that it’s no longer labeled as ‘learning,’ and instead becomes an integral part of how work happens. The article explains the 3 principles of learning in the flow: learning is integrated, learning is active, and learning is routine.”
Another favorite quotation of mine is from Leonardo Da Vinci: “Learning never exhausts the mind.”
Find ways for you and your staff to continually learn; it’s never dull!