More than ever, companies need to train and develop their employees and managers. As such, countless billions of dollars are spent on seminars, executive education, speakers, etc. The results, however, have been underwhelming.
The dirty little secret is that, done right, the best employee training and managerial development takes place on the job and in the office. And usually this training costs absolutely nothing to do.
The training may be free; but the benefits are enormous.
1. Problem with Solutions
The first item is to require employees and managers that come with a problem to offer a solution. By having the employee first talk through their proposed solution, the employee can be guided to see the problem from a broader perspective and think through the positives and negatives of the proposed solution. If their solution is appropriate, the executive can simply approve it without further comment. The employee can then go implement their solution leading to greater ownership and accountability of the idea. During this process, the executive can further assess the employee’s thinking patterns and their perspective. Thus, the manager gains insight into potential blind spots or challenges – areas for further discussion and coaching.
2. Peer to Peer Learning
On a team, have each employee become an expert on some specific area important to the overall team.
Consider the example of a team trying to improve safety performance in an operation. In this case, one person could be the forklift safety expert, another the hazardous materials (chemicals / gas / liquids) expert, a third the personal protective equipment (PPE) expert, a fourth the overhead crane expert, etc.
It then becomes each individual’s job to fully understand that specific area and to coach and train others on the team in that particular area. As a result, the employees and team are learning from one another – peer to peer learning. In addition, each employee is enhancing their specialized knowledge and communication skills.
3. Take a Vacation
The Germans are known for their ample vacation time. In the summer, most managers and executives will take a 2 – 4 week block of time and go on vacation. To accommodate this, each executive has a “stellvertreter.” A stellvertreter (literally, taking the place of another) takes over the role of the executive for the time he or she is on vacation. Of course, the executive’s boss is there overseeing the stellvertreter. But still, the stellvertreter has a 2 – 4 week test run where they are responsible and accountable for doing the work of their boss. In effect, these employees have a real live 2 – 4 week management simulation to be their boss and see the world through their boss’s eyes.
Let’s apply this to the US. By taking a two week vacation (leaving the laptop and smart phone behind), an executive can re-charge her batteries and see how her direct reports perform without her presence. This gives the team trial-by-fire training, further accountability, and usually a great sense of accomplishment that they were able to drive the ship while the captain was on shore leave.
By using these three simple methods, executives can train and develop their employees and managers to make bigger decisions, think more broadly, and take further accountability. Total cost: ZERO DOLLARS!!