Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Founders Thoughts: Working Potential

It’s a strange thing that while it is generally acknowledged and accepted these days that different people have different ways of learning, what is barely acknowledged let alone acted on is that people also have different ways of preferring to work.

When it comes to learning we have realised that some people learn best from books, others from listening, visual aids or by hands-on practical methods. All too often this does not seem to enter into the thoughts of trainers in the workplace, but then that’s not surprising as few are ever put on a course to teach them how to train anyone. At times it is more akin to a miracle that novices in the workplace are able to learn anything.

However, formalised learning doesn't always work. I have been a volunteer for several projects where people of disadvantage, disability and who have experienced social exclusion have not and can not engage in mainstream methods of learning. An alarming number of illiterate people end up turning to crime. It would seem sensible to me to invent new ways of learning to help reduce these figures. We learn best when we feel people are interested in us as people.

My last blog was about how unemployment is a burden to all, and learning feeds into this. One of the reason for volunteering is to acquire new skills, hone or keep fresh existing ones to develop. A common pitfall is that volunteers can find themselves roped into, or expected to do things they never signed up to and end used for skills they already have. No surprise that employers find they lose those resources as a consequence.

Working environments and conditions

Everyone has a preferred working pattern and environment. Some people prefer silence to concentrate in, while others like noise; be it chatter or music. Some people prefer not to have long lunch breaks but prefer more regular shorter breaks, while others find the long lunch handy to fit in a bit a shopping and to come up for air by getting a change of scene. Breaks of some kind I believe are essential to clear your head so you can view things more objectively. Many a pitfall is avoided but taking a 5-10 minute break, even if it is spent reviewing progress so far.

Then there’s how busy the job is, whether an individual is a night owl or morning lark, are they stalwart plodders or rapid responders? Are they reactive or proactive? The list could be endless. How many employers though really take any of this on board? It seems odd not to when it’s in an organisation’s interests to increase productivity and efficiency by playing to its staff strengths rather than aim for the impossible in trying to force them to be what they are not.

Obviously an organisation shouldn’t enter into a free-for-all whereby staff do only the things that interest them, how they fancy. Laborious, mundane or daily tasks might never get done if that policy were adopted; result -
 the organisation collapses for lack a cohesive structure by which it functions. However, I do wonder if enterprises are not missing out on many a golden opportunity too. 

It always helps to get to know your staff, to help them feel at ease and supported and to be as flexible as possible about how they want to work. Staff often have hidden talents - remember when it was fashionable to show an interest in people's hobbies? And how do you fair on adhering to the agreements made that arise from regular reviews and appraisals of staff performance?

One thing that’s always puzzled me about some bosses... why employ anyone if you never trust them enough to leave them to do the job you employed them to do? Isn’t that a waste of your time and theirs? Far better to encourage them to have a go, be approachable and leave your door open if they need your advice. So long as they are ethical in their work, never upset anyone and deliver on the tasks set does it matter how they got there? Who knows they may have methods that could enhance your own thereby leading to both parties benefitting in ways never dreamed of.  Why some bosses are so fearful of the potential in the staff beneath them I will never fathom as they could take credit for nurturing it instead. 

For me, few things are as wonderful as the potential of a person; few things sadder than when that potential is not realised. 

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