If you’ve been in training and development for the last decade, you have most likely heard the adage “What got you here won’t get you there,” coined by Marshall Goldsmith in his business coaching book of the same name. That, of course, is the tenet of training and development! What got you into the course or training room won’t get you out of it. You’re there to learn and to advance your skills. If you’re a leader, hopefully you’re learning about the myriad nuanced behaviors and habits that make the difference from getting that “high performer” label and actually delivering on becoming a well-respected, successful leader.
The same personal principle can also be extrapolated to your teams: The people who helped your company reach its current position are probably not the ones who will get you where you want to go. The skills leaders needed to push your company to one position may not be the skills they need to push it to the next, better position.
The increasing pace at which necessary work skills are changing has caught many baby boomers and older Gen Xers flat-footed. Not only is length of service no longer valued, but the skills they needed to reach their positions today are most likely outmoded: To remain relevant at work, we must constantly update our skills, sensibility and cultural literacy. Boomers who counted on their experience to keep them in a job will increasingly be disappointed in their ability to remain employed or be hired, unless they keep their skills fresh and continually adapt to the changing needs of the workplace. Professions with continuing education unit requirements designed to keep niche-skilled professionals up to date on advances in their fields have a significant advantage over most white-collar and knowledge workers. There is no standard “relevance” training for management, no technical standards or industry knowledge requirement everyone needs to meet to stay qualified.
For leaders of organizations, market and cultural relevance are critical. They must be willing to dedicate time to keeping themselves and their teams relevant to ensure continuing profit. Here are three ways to help them:
1. Curated Reading Lists
Too often, we grow comfortable reading what we like, not what other people, like our employees or customers, read. Create a required reading list, including email newsletters and videos, culled from the younger team members and customers so that older employees have the same inputs as their younger colleagues.
2. CEO or Company News Feeds
Consider creating a strong social media news feed for the company or its CEO, and encourage employees to follow it. Given that millennials are two times as likely to prefer receiving information from people they know, a news feed is a fast way to ensure your younger employees are exposed to the news you find important.
3. Appy Hour
Create a monthly “Appy Hour” led by your youngest team members. Each month, the leader of that session choses two or three apps to introduce to his or her team. Everyone downloads the apps before the session, and the leader presents hands-on training on them. Appy Hour will expose your people to new technologies and communication tools and provide presentation and leadership opportunities to the youngest team members – an opportunity that consistently ranks high in employee surveys.
In a rapidly changing world, legacy companies that are willing and able to innovate and invest in keeping their employees relevant are the ones that will not just survive but thrive. Business models are changing, and the more we hang on to the past, the more we ensure our demise. Different dynamics in business are changing at different paces, and we will all need to straddle the old way and the new way for a while. But if your people are not willing to learn new skills, they will drag you down and cost you revenue, profit and more current talent.
Parts of this article were excerpted from “The Boomerang Principle.”