What's in Your Tool Box? By Ron Slee
Article Date: 03-01-2009
Copyright(C) 2009 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.
If cutting costs means cutting professional education for employees, delivering best-in-class services is going to be a challenge.
I wonder if you remember the interviews when you first joined the workplace. There were many questions about your background and experience, your education and your knowledge, your attitude and personal attributes – all the probing to determine if you would be a good fit in the company and whether the skills and talent you possessed would be of value to the company.
Perhaps you have had subsequent interviews in the same company as you progressed through various jobs within the organization. There is a constant theme underlying all of these interviews and discussion: Were you a match to the needs of the task at hand? Did you have the necessary skills and attributes? Reflect back for a moment on the time you have been in the job. Have you grown and further developed your skills?
One of the most unusual thoughts on job performance I’ve seen comes from Albert Einstein: “If we continue to do what we have always done expecting different results we are insane.” I would like to look at it in a different light. If we take on a job and do not continue to grow our skills, we do ourselves and our employer a disservice. It leads to a “what have you done for me lately” type of question.
As many of you know, I taught education at a university early in my work life. A theme I pushed hard to the prospective teachers was that along with the task of teaching the curriculum we had a higher purpose to teach the students how to teach themselves. This is a life skill that never goes out of fashion. Too many people breathe a sigh of relief when they graduate from school, at whatever level, glad that stage of life is over. But as you know, that is just the beginning of another kind of learning. This, however, is somewhat of a problem for the workforce.
The Japanese use a philosophy of “Kaizen,” in which continuous improvement in the job functions or tasks is sought. And while many American companies have adopted this philosophy since at least the ‘80s, it’s not very visible in our society. Instead, we have been taught to be obedient, to follow stringent rules as children, and when we join the workforce we are shown or taught how to do a job; we are directed to keep doing it until we get it right. And somehow, that is where we stop. Like the day we leave school, thinking the learning is over, we just stop.
How many of you have read at least one business book over the past month? How about trade magazines and journals? Well, if you are still with me on this subject the answer is: Yes, you read journals. But we need to do much more in personal and professional development. The world is a rapidly changing place. We can’t sit on our laurels. If we do, we will get left behind.
The AED Foundation has promoted a 40-hour-per-year training goal for every employee within our industry. And that means everyone. Imagine providing no skills training for your mechanics! How long would it take for them to fall behind? What about sales and marketing people? What about our management and supervisory skills? What about you? What are you doing to continue to grow your skills?
When we are young we learn like we’re sponges. We drink up everything that is put in front of us. But as we get older we grow selective about what we learn. We make the determination of what is necessary for us to learn or develop, and that is a dangerous place.
Now put this into the context of the business environment we are experiencing today. What about your particular training plans for each employee and yourself? Is it continuing on pace or has this fallen prey to cost reduction? Are we going to take a rest from training to save the money? Many of you have come to that conclusion. Many of you have cut back on your training budget. Be careful where you make cuts. More than ever, you need everyone to be applying their skills to improving job performance; you need everyone to try to make their work more effective; you need to continue to develop and implement best practices. You owe this to your employer, but more important, you owe this to your customer.
Don’t back off, don’t slow down, and never give up.
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