I’ve been in the workplace learning and performance field for over 15 years. When I reflect on my career, one of the things I’m most thankful for was being let go from my first training director position.
I obviously didn’t realize it at the time—I was probably too focused on securing employment to notice—but that disruption to my status quo was one of the primary catalysts to the professional growth that led me to where I am today.
Who defines your skill set?
When I lost that first job, I was forced to take stock of my skill set. The job postings I would review and the interviews I would go on brought to light a critical mistake I had made in my career.
While my skill set was very strong in many areas, it was weaker in other areas. My strengths were in areas that served the immediate needs of my employer. However, while I was working, other skill areas had grown in importance within the industry. By allowing the needs of the organization to define my skill set, I was falling behind.
Think about that statement for a moment: “The needs of the organization were defining my skill set.” That doesn’t sound bad, does it? In fact, it sounds like I’m doing the right thing by my employer. The problem is, allowing the needs of the organization to define your skill set hurts you as an individual, and it hurts your organization.
The value of curiosity
Let’s start with how it hurts you as an individual. When I was with my first employer, I wasn’t driving my career or my professional growth. It wasn’t until I left that employer that I realized my skills were falling behind in some areas because I wasn’t updating them. The growth of my skill set was a byproduct of responding to the needs of my employer.
Sure, there was some growth based on my need to find solutions to new problems, but that’s reactive growth, and it’s limited. You can’t ensure that your skill set is current without knowing what’s going on in the profession. To ensure that your skill set remains current, you need to be curious about what’s going on around you, beyond the walls of your organization. Allowing the needs of an organization to dictate your professional growth leads to stagnation, and to “doing what we do because it’s what we’ve always done.”
Stagnation’s collateral damage for the employer
Allowing the needs of the organization to dictate your skill set hurts your employer as well. Many organizations identify innovation as one of the things they need most. Innovation is about new ideas, methods, products, and technologies.
Sadly, these are not the types of things that happen within the silos of most organizations. New ideas come from branching out and exploring paths that you haven’t walked before. Innovation doesn’t come from reacting to a need; it comes from continuously expanding your knowledge and skill set so that when new problems and needs arise, you have new resources from which to build solutions.
Stagnation of an employee’s professional growth minimizes the organization’s opportunities for innovative solutions.
DevLearn: The professional’s whetstone
This is true across our organizations, including within the world of the learning professional in which most people reading this article work. It’s critical for learning professionals to “sharpen the saw,” as Stephen Covey would say.
For our personal benefit, and for the benefit of the organizations that we work with, we need to make sure we keep our finger on the pulse of the industry. It’s vital to keep our skill sets up-to-date with the latest advances in learning technologies and methodologies.
This is a primary reason I look forward to attending the DevLearn Conference and Expo each year. I’m lucky enough to attend a number of different conferences, and DevLearn is the one that I always look for to find out what’s next and to see examples of cutting edge technologies put into practice.
With almost 200 different learning opportunities, DevLearn is the one event that I count on every year to find out what new technologies and methods are being used today and to get an advance preview on many of the technologies and techniques that I will need to add to my skill set in the years to come.
Our world as learning and performance professionals is rapidly evolving. New technology-based learning and performance solutions are challenging (or in some cases completely re-writing) many of the tried and true methods of supporting worker performance. It’s an exciting time to be in our field and participate in this period of change. There’s so much potential to do our jobs more effectively and better support others to be more effective in their work.
Unfortunately, having the technology is only one part of the puzzle. As we’ve seen many times, quite often new technologies often mean nothing more than making the same mistakes in new ways. If you want to get people to act differently, you need to get them to think differently. This is true for not only the people whose work we support, but for us as learning and performance professionals as well.
Of course, saying we need to be innovative in our work is easy; making innovation happen is something else entirely.
Real peer learning and innovation
At DevLearn you’ll hear dozens of companies sharing their stories of innovation. You’ll learn from their successes, the challenges they encountered on their way to success, and how they were able to overcome them. From case studies to inspirational keynotes to the annual DemoFest showcase, DevLearn is the place where technology-driven learning innovations are on display.
Innovation is at the core of DevLearn. Not only are we sharing innovative solutions at the conference; the DevLearn Conference and Expo is also the place where conversations take place about the trends that are shaping the future of our field. Being at DevLearn allows you to stay informed about the innovations of our field, and by participating in the discussions, you can help shape the future innovations of the industry yourself.
Move forward—or fall behind
In today’s fast-moving world, if you’re not moving forward, you’re falling behind. This is especially true in the learning profession right now, as there are a number of advances being adopted in the industry that alter the way we have done our jobs in the past. I encourage you to follow the changing tides of our industry and take control of your growth to ensure your skills remain current.
For me, the DevLearn Conference and Expo is my primary resource for doing just that. Join us in Las Vegas this October, and help shape what’s next for learning and performance.
(Editor's Note: As of Monday, September 16, over 500 professionals have registered for the pre-conference events (Certificate Programs). As sessions are filled to room capacity, registrations for those sessions will be closed. Register as soon as possible for the Conference and your desired Certificate Program.)