Years ago, I worked for a nonprofit organization providing literacy education to people in rural communities. I soon realized that I needed much more than my idealism to make it work. I required marketing skills to attract volunteers and sponsors, volunteer management skills to inspire and retain a cadre of volunteers, as well as some solid administration and planning skills to meet the demand and ensure that respect and privacy were always top of mind.
Time was always in short supply and I soon had to learn to delegate and to develop a systems approach if I wanted this to be a successful project. I was fortunate at the time to have a strong mentor who taught me the value of collaboration, leadership and continuous learning.
As the person in charge I had to work quickly to build my team. The two key learnings I received from my mentor was to be an effective leader you have to be a good listener and always be willing to collaborate. Meetings quickly became work sessions with clear goals and timelines. It didn’t take long until we all felt a sense of accomplishment which created mutual feelings of respect and trust. We developed a collaborative conflict resolution process so everyone felt safe when there was a significant disagreement. I made sure that everyone felt supported when the need arose. We developed the attitude that whenever a problem arose or one of us made a mistake, it was an opportunity to learn.
Second to developing strong collaborative leadership skills was developing a program of continuous learning for the team. With money always in short supply we couldn’t afford to hire consultants or send people off to courses. So we developed our own training program. We identified a list of topics that ranged from legislative and privacy concerns, to team collaboration. We voted and prioritized 14 modules and each of us took one module and researched it. My job was to develop a training program on basic curriculum design and facilitation skills. As each team member completed their research they would learn how to design training materials, learning objectives, agendas, and participant guides. They would then participate in a two-day in-house facilitation skills course where they learned creative ways to share their knowledge. One team member hosted a series of “lunch-box” sessions with a variety of expert guest speakers that really inspired the group.
I learned early on in my career that training need not be expensive to be effective. What strategies have you developed to bring learning into your organization when resources are scarce?
What is your organization doing to retain its knowledge? With so many employees nearing retirement you may be missing the opportunity to harness invaluable information.
Your long-term employees have the advantage of experience that is specific to your work environment. Many of them have developed strong relationships and are respected by younger employees. This trust extends to their expertise that will be readily accepted by newer employees.
Start by identifying the knowledge that you need to capture.
Take this knowledge from your experienced employees and have them learn some basic facilitation and mentoring techniques and you have developed a vehicle to share knowledge within.
As employees approach the age of reflection some choose to retire and take on new challenges. But others would jump at the chance to give back what they have mastered over many years. Many would love the opportunity to shift from full-time to part-time or contract employment. More and more people are still engaged in some sort of work into their late seventies.
Unfortunately most organizations have not developed a career track for this type of “knowledge capture”. They haven’t developed a mechanism to identify potential trainers. Those that have often don’t provide the necessary training and development for this new role.
Just think of what you lose when these employees leave with their expertise, and you haven’t harnessed it. This includes broader industry knowledge along with your organizations operating procedures, systems and equipment familiarity. And don’t forget all the shortcuts and “better ways of doing things” that they utilize on a daily basis but may never have shared.
To develop organizational knowledge, employers should formalize a plan that includes these four elements:
- Transform your long-term champions into Trainers and Mentors as an option to retirement
- Develop a formal collaborative mentorship program and learning environment
- Document foundational knowledge
- Develop a knowledge transfer program and integrate it into your performance management plan for each employee.
Long-term employees approaching the age of reflection are often eager to share what they have mastered throughout a long and successful career. Harnessing it is up to your organization!
A Highly Recommend Read!
On this journey of discovery, we strive to understand what motivates us while exploring our true personalities. We reflect on situations that have brought about our greatest learning. It is within these answers that we discover our own fulfillment.
Although the truth lies within each of us, we may be too scared to peel the layers away to discover the real person beneath. It is only through this real understanding that we can accomplish that feeling of bliss that we all seek.
Traveling Light is the self-reflective journey that I share with you in the hope that you open yourself up to an adventure of your own. It is meant to help you create and reinforce your own safe zone of discovery. I assure you it will be a trip worth taking and will be filled with learning that will reflect in multiple areas of your life.
So start this journey today with me. While you make the commitment to invest valuable time in yourself, I encourage you to notice the successes that you begin to create through your own actions and new awareness.
Nisha Paul is a psychologist who has spent the last two decades focusing on people and organizational development. Born in Mumbai, India, she has traveled and lived in different parts of the world and currently calls Vancouver, Canada her home.
Having studied at the University of Mumbai, India and the University of Nottingham, U.K. she has gained a global academic perspective to complement her valuable life lessons. Along the way she has discovered what truly makes her happy and has created a life for herself that she finds enriching. Nisha also enjoys photography and has used her photographs to illustrate this book.
Motivated to seek opportunities to give back to her community and society at large, she decided to share this literary journey, which is her first. While encouraging her readers to reflect on their own life journeys, she aims to contribute to the collective awareness in our world today.