A Leader’s Role is to Support the Knowledge Worker

by wpengine on April 22, 2014 in Workforce


Have you heard the not so funny story of the CFO that tells the company President, “we keep training people and when they leave they take that with them.” And the President says in reply, “Imagine how fast they would leave if we did not train them.”

The most common image of training is of classrooms full of employees with a formal trainer delivering chosen content to the masses. There is nothing wrong with this kind of training. Big companies and small companies send people to this kind of training all of the time.

But today’s workforce is all about change. Jobs change. Skills in those jobs change. People change jobs. And it is harder than ever for an employee or company to keep up. But one key opportunity is the organizational mindset of training. If training is done in one room by one person at a preset time, then a key element of learning is missing. “Nearly half of U.S. companies spend less than $68 per day on training employees, which means they spend more on coffee than training,” according to book The Talent Equation.

We take a different approach to training and shoot to go above and beyond the average training hours. Our goal at the Outside-In® Companies is to gently remind staff that they can learn new things here – as a lot of moments at work are teaching moments. A leader’s job is to do a lot of things – but one critical element is to get out from behind their desk and teach. To stop giving out answers to questions because it is easier and they are so busy, and instead to teach. If you are involved with sales, help the team keep those deals alive. If you’re in production, share what you know or better yet pull groups of people together to share what they know. Change your approach and set the tone for learning on the job.

Training is a part of a commitment to the knowledge worker. A knowledge worker is only as good as what they know combined with a mindset to serve customers. In order for today’ knowledge workers to succeed to the nth degree, they must be in an environment that respects and appreciates knowledge shared and learned. Did you know that 60 percent of job seekers expect to acquire job specific skills on the job? (CareerBuilder’s recent report “The Shocking Truth About the Skills Gap) Employers are often reluctant to offer training, but we’d like to encourage you to listen to your employees’ calls for learning.

A knowledge worker succeeds in an environment that does not reward silos. You know that leader that won’t share, or cascade, or push out anything to anyone unless it is considered to their advantage? That won’t work in an environment that counts on its front lines to think, make decisions, and wow the customer.

I have found that leaders tend to struggle in knowing where to begin when it comes to teaching. It’s as simple as look around your company. You have values right? Teach them. Tells stories. Your business or industry is changing. Talk about that. Pick a skill or competency. Teach from your expertise. When all else fails, teach why your business exists. Or teach employees about your company’s strategic direction. I hope you get my point. Just start. The key is to never stop.

One response to “A Leader’s Role is to Support the Knowledge Worker”

  1. […] 7. What types of initiatives does the company offer in reference to training and development? […]

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