When training others or delegating a task, one of the hardest things to do is presenting the information in a way the person understands. Sometimes we think of this as “explain it as you would to a 5 year old.” It really boils down to putting ourselves in the position of a beginner when we are the expert.
This article delves into this topic nicely. While it focuses on college professors, it really applies to anyone is I the position to help others acquire new knowledge, skills, or abilities. Putting the educators in an uncomfortable position of learning something new really served as a reminder of how difficult it can be to pick up on something you don’t know.
While it’s not necessarily practical to have managers and trainers master a difficult puzzle in order for them to empathize with others who are learning, there are some actions that help put them in a better position to do so, including:
Make sure there is good two-way communication during the learning process. When delegating a task, a manager should ask the delegate to describe what is being asked of her/him/them in order to demonstrate understanding.
Explain things to people in multiple ways. This leads us to think about tasks in more than one way (e.g., only the way we think is best) so that it’s understandable to a wider audience.
Be patient with the learner as he/she/they attempts the task. All of us learn through both success and failure. You need to let both of them happen and that takes time.
We all learned what we do in our work with sometimes good, and sometimes not so good, teachers. Our effectiveness in delegating or teaching tasks partially lies in putting ourselves in the position of the learner rather than the expert. By thinking of ways to do that, we’ll be more effective in improving the skill levels in our organizations.
It seems very old-school, but sea ports are still very big business. The twin ports in southern California (LA and Long Beach) are a huge economic driver (they are the primary sender/receiver of goods between North America and Asia) and employer. But, they are also one of the biggest polluters in the region. For as long as I can remember, there has always been a balancing act to keep the ports humming and making the area healthier.
A bit more under the radar has been the creep of automation. While car companies fought this battle with their unions a generation ago, the idea that automation can be stopped is still alive and well among the longshoremen. This article gets into some of the specifics regarding the plan and it potential impacts.
From an HR perspective, the bigger story here is not the automation (it is going to happen as it makes the port more eco-friendly and efficient), but the lack of planning regarding the retraining of workers. It is somewhat surprising that this is occurring at the ports because most of the labor disputes over the last 20 or so years have not been over wages but over the number of jobs. The port and the union are now in negotiations about retraining and head count for different positions, but this is time and goodwill being spent now on solutions that could have been anticipated.
A better approach would be:
Analyze the skills required for current jobs and for those created by the automation. Yes, new equipment needs to be programmed, maintained, etc. Metrics of productivity and cost need up to updated, tracked, etc.
Where the skills map directly, there no problem and this should be communicated to those employees.
Where the skills don’t completely map, determine how the skills can be acquired.
Communicate the path to skill acquisition clearly to those whose positions are going to be eliminated or changed. It should be presented as an opportunity rather than a threat.
Provide adequate resources (tuition reimbursement, time away from work, etc.) to allow for the retraining.
Develop and/or promote an internal posting system for those who cannot be placed in the new positions.
Automation has always been a part of business and that is not changing any time soon. Trying to prevent is as useless a stopping the tides. However, planning for it allows companies to keep valuable employees and for employees who are willing to upgrade their skills to stay employed.
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