Do you use learning and reward & recognition?
I would like you to consider two sides of the same coin – the learning and reward & recognition coin.
On the one side of the coin are those companies that use learning as part of their reward and recognition strategy. From a business perspective (if you do it right), this is a very smart strategy, because your reward is then simultaneously a benefit, which theoretically should bring additional benefit to your business (beyond that which warranted the reward in the first instance). This is a much better strategy than investing your training budget in individuals who will never yield even an acceptable return on investment. It is a far better strategy than sponsoring and sending someone away to study full time, just to eliminate this problem maker from continuously disrupting your team. Rewarding good performers with training opportunities sends a more positive message to the rest of your team who are pulling their weight and who are contributing. The problem is that when you only do it in this way, training may not always be applied where it is needed most. As much as your achievers have earned the investment of further training and development, sometimes the biggest benefit from training will come from staff who you may not currently consider to be in your top performers’ category. To get the most from your training initiatives, you need to consider using it as an enabler of achievement as well as a reward for achievement.
On the other side of the coin are those companies that reward and recognize people for learning. There are so many different ways to approach this. Some companies send out a note of congratulations in a flash email or the company newsletter and some host an expensive dinner, combined with an award ceremony. The wisest of them all remember to at least create opportunities for employees to apply their new found skills in the workplace. Similarly to those who find themselves on the other side of the coin, this can again be an incredibly wise business strategy – if you apply it correctly. Conversely this side of the coin carries a more significant danger, because if you fail to create those opportunities to apply the new skills and in fact expect an employee to remain unchanged after their learning experience, you have not only effectively wasted the company’s money, but you will also frustrate those employees, demotivate them and ultimately (in all likelihood) you will lose them. If you find yourself in one of those organizations, wondering why you are always investing in people on behalf of your competition, you may be guilty of this very transgression. Some organizations experience difficulty with this, because saying that we want change is much easier than actually having to experience and deal with the change. When employees return with knowledge and ideas different to that shared by senior management and challenges them, it takes great courage from management to remain open to new ideas instead of becoming defensive. But why value people enough to pay them to eat at your expensive awards dinner and then not value them enough to think about how they can improve our business?
Maybe this is a perfect example of an opportunity for you to have your cake and eat it – maybe you can find yourself on both sides of this coin and truly enjoy the best of both worlds! Whichever side you choose, make sure that you do link learning to reward and recognition and make sure that you link it in a smart way!