Learning shouldn’t stop when someone earns a diploma or degree, and that’s especially true in the workplace where the company’s fate – and an employee’s career – could rest on the constant thirst to learn and improve.
“Developing a culture of continued education and continuous improvement is critical if you want to retain your staff and provide them with advancement opportunities,” says Shawn Burcham (www.shawnburcham.com), founder and CEO of PFSbrands and author of Keeping Score with GRITT: Straight Talk Strategies for Success.
Essentially, Burcham says, sending employees “back to school” is good business, but that doesn’t mean you need to enroll them in Harvard’s MBA program.
“There’s plenty you can do right within your own doors and that employees can do on their own,” he says.
A few examples, Burcham says, include:
Establish in-house training programs. “Many companies spend thousands of dollars to send their employees to seminars or conferences,” Burcham says. “This strategy is fine, but personal growth starts by training in the workplace.” One example at PFSbrands, he says, was the creation of a Financial Literacy Committee that worked to make sure employees were educated about the financial aspects of the company, helping them to understand income statements and balance sheets. “This makes everyone more aware of the challenges involved with achieving profitability,” Burcham says. “Furthermore, this education provides everyone an opportunity to see how they can impact the company’s profitability and enhance their opportunity for additional income.”
Encourage everyone to read books for personal development. “One of my biggest regrets and mistakes in life is that I didn’t start reading books until age 40,” Burcham says. Now, he has created a book club at his company to encourage and incentivize everyone to continue to grow and learn, and he requires the senior-leadership team to read a minimum of 12 books a year. “I’ve seen dozens of people improve their lives as a result of implementing our book club,” he says.
Target lifelong learners in recruiting efforts. You can encourage employees to develop a continuous-improvement mindset, but it’s also possible to find people with that mindset in the hiring process, Burcham says. “We’ve found that lifelong learners are a great fit at PFSbrands, so we’ve developed systems and processes that help us to recruit these types of individuals,” he says. “Employees who don’t make an effort to continuously learn and improve will ultimately find themselves at another company. We train our leaders to not avoid the critical conversations with individuals who are not working toward improvement.”
“Despite how many degrees hang on the walls in their offices, wise leaders are committed to never stop learning,” Burcham says. “Whether it’s done in-house or at an industry conference, you owe it to yourself and your employees to engage in continued education. After all, a successful company’s growth is dependent on the capabilities of its employees.”
Shawn Burcham (www.shawnburcham.com), author of Keeping Score with GRITT: Straight Talk Strategies for Success, is the founder & CEO of PFSbrands, which he and his wife, Julie, started out of their home in 1998. The company has over 1,500 branded foodservice locations across 40 states and is best known for their Champs Chicken franchise brand which was started in 1999. Prior to starting PFSbrands, Burcham spent five years with a Fortune 100 company, Mid-America Dairymen (now Dairy Farmers of America). He also worked for three years as a Regional Sales Manager for a midwest Chester’s Fried chicken distributor.