making space

Sometimes, perhaps too often, we are asking the wrong questions about workplace learning. For instance, we should not be asking how people can work more efficiently. We should be asking what are the best conditions for people to do their work.

A friend who works in retail banking told me recently how they loved their work but there was never enough time in the day to get everything done and they always left work feeling exhausted. In addition, the training they received, in the form of e-learning courses, was perceived to be useless. The best learning came from periods when the three co-workers could discuss a problem together. These were infrequent. I see similar conditions in most of the industries and organizations I consult with. There is just not enough time.

As organizations go about change initiatives like digital transformation — which is a misnomer — they overlook one key aspect. In order to learn or do something new, we have to stop doing something else. Learning requires time and space. Few people in any organization today have hours of doing nothing. If they do, they should seriously be focused on professional development opportunities because their job will likely be gone soon. Give people time, coupled with a living wage, and they can flourish. They do not need another performance ‘intervention’.

via @fzammetti

EVERY COMPANY EVER: We want to promote mental health in the workplace.

EMPLOYEES: OK, how about hiring more people so we feel less pressure and increase our pay so we’re not constantly stressed about the spiraling cost of living?

EVERY COMPANY EVER: No, not like that. Try Yoga.

Removing barriers to learning is what I have found is usually the first issue to address in any large organization. Most people are motivated. Many people are exhausted. For example, reducing the number of meetings and making the rest more effective is one way to remove barriers to learning and getting things done. People are not machines, whose time has to be optimized. People should be nourished. People need space and time to build relationships. Trusted relationships enable knowledge to flow faster across the organization. People will never be more efficient than machines, but they can be more curious, creative, and empathetic.

“Humans should only be used to do what humans do best: coming together to get things done as sensibly and creatively and effectively as possible. The technology should not try to do what humans do better, and vice versa. ” —Charles Handy

In order to work better, we have to look at what we should not be doing. First make the space to learn.

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