Do you provide weather preparedness training? I’m not talking about how to secure the store in the event of a storm. I mean what to do to keep yourself and your family safe during weather events. (Figure 1)
Figure 1: How do you help people keep themselves and their families safe?
Do you provide financial acumen training? I’m not talking about compliance training on money laundering. I mean how to manage basic investments and keep up with bills.
Do you provide voting training? I’m not talking about getting political. I mean foundational knowledge and awareness of how to engage in the electoral process.
These topics are important in real life. Some are potentially life-saving. But when I’ve made suggestions for this training in some organizations, I’ve received responses like ...
? “We barely have the time and resources to keep up with required training, yet alone extra stuff.”
? “We have to chase down employees to get them to do any training. Why would they do this if it doesn’t relate to their jobs?”
? “It’s not our responsibility to provide training on topics that don’t relate to the workplace.”
? “That’s a great idea. We’ll consider it for next year’s plan.”
But somehow next year never came.
Humanizing the curriculum
I’m not blaming L&D for dropping the ball. We can only get so much done with what we’re given. I’m calling out entire organizations for how they (fail to) prioritize employees. Many companies refer to workers as their “greatest assets.” That’s a bit dehumanizing. It’s also a bad metaphor. After all, do you only protect the things you own when they’re sitting right in front of you? Or, if you really value something, do you do whatever it takes to make sure it's always in the best possible condition?
In his new book How’s the Culture in Your Kingdom? Lessons from a Disney Leadership Journey, Dan Cockerell (who was once my boss’ boss) writes, “We should all remember that we don’t have a personal life and a professional life. We have one life and we should address it holistically.” Dan points out a basic reality that many managers miss. We don’t leave who we are at the door when we go to work. All of our concerns, wants, likes, and fears come with us and inform our decisions, especially during times of major disruption. Likewise, when our shift is over, the workplace experience—the good and the bad—follows us home and impacts how we live. It doesn’t matter if we have “work/life balance.” It doesn’t matter if we “put on a face” while we’re on the job. We are who we are.
Can we help employees do their best work if we’re not equally passionate about helping people live their best lives?
Here are three ways L&D can prioritize training on important personal topics.
This article is more about wellness than it is learning. SPOILER! I’m not a wellness expert. But, most companies have some form of wellness program, often with a focus on physical fitness and mental health. They bring in ergonomic experts. They provide (some) employees with benefits and assistance programs. Growth mindset is all the rage. And who hasn’t participated in a “let's see who can get to 10,000 steps every day” or “try the new standing desks” initiative? All good ideas—with varying results.
L&D can take the wellness focus a step further by helping people acquire the knowledge and tools they need to overcome everyday challenges that personally impact them in negative ways. For example, while not every employee will need help paying their monthly bills, a critical few may benefit from access to trustworthy, high-value financial resources. It’s more than just the right thing to do. People’s added confidence and engagement may also translate into improved work performance.
You can offer training on meaningful everyday challenges without dedicating time and resources to building new content. (Un)luckily, plenty of people outside your company are trying to solve the same problems. L&D can curate resources from trusted, available sources and make them easy for employees to access. For instance ...
? Here’s a hurricane preparation video from The Weather Channel.
? Here’s a money management video from a random guy who gets positive feedback.
? Here’s a video and curated resources about how voting works in Florida.
Any employee—with effort—could find this YouTube content on their own. However, L&D can leverage our reach to promote awareness of these important subjects at the right times. For example, Floridians should be pushed reinforcement training on hurricane safety every May. L&D can also verify that resources are trustworthy. I can’t tell you if the money management guy knows what he’s talking about, but your corporate finance team can. Employees will always be responsible for managing their own lives. But, with so many disruptions and changing priorities, some people need a little help.
If L&D is serious about “lifelong learning,” the concept has to expand beyond the workplace. Learning promotes more learning, regardless of subject matter. When people stop learning new things, they get bored. When they get bored, they disengage. When they disengage, they make bad decisions … or leave altogether.
There’s plenty to learn in the workplace. However, we don’t always have new training to deliver. A job can become repetitive and tedious. Plus, many employees, especially those on the frontline, don’t have extra time to browse through giant content catalogs to maybe find something new to learn. L&D can help by providing a balance of workplace and everyday topics to promote a habit of continuous learning. We can apply microlearning principles to promote focused learning as part of the everyday working experience. So, when there’s a new safety process, daily training is shifted to focus on safety. However, once an employee has mastered this topic, training can adapt to focus on a timely topic of personal interest (while continuing to reinforce safety).
Bad weather is a fact of life. Sometimes, the storm hits you at work. Sometimes, it hits you at home. Organizations must show employees they care about them and are there to help them weather the storm, regardless of the impact zone. This is especially important right now as we face uncertainty and disruption 24/7.
This approach requires a mindset shift for learning professionals. We don’t train employees. We help people.