Workplace Learning: A Continuing Process

Rainy days are here again. Some companies take this time to send their employees to training. These companies believe that learning is an elixir to the workplace and learning is a continuous process either in a formal or informal setting. Even if we are graduates of a bachelor’s degree, masteral, doctorate, or other advanced studies, there are still many things that we need to learn to improve our craft. Learning is not a destination that we reach, it is a process of getting there—except that we never reach it. We should assume the attitude of a wide-eyed learner, considering every new knowledge as a welcome thing and source of wonderment. In the workplace, new knowledge and skills are imperative, especially in a high technology milieu. 

Technological growth is exponential. It used to be that new technology had a gestation period of 18 to 24 months. Now, it’s less than a year to six months. The problem is it takes man longer to be able to absorb new technological knowledge, hence the ever-widening cultural lag. That is man’s failure to keep up with new knowledge.

Knowledge is mainly theories and concepts, while skills are manifestations of knowledge. The concept of hydraulics, for example, can be demonstrated with a car jack, but you need to hone your skill in using it. A man learns the underlying theory to make the car jack lift a heavy vehicle. That is technological knowledge. It is possible for man to excel in knowledge but lack the skills in applying it. 

In an anecdote, Albert Einstein and Robert Oppenheimer, both 20th century geniuses and outstanding quantum physicists, had a flat tire on their way to Princeton one day in 1920. They stood by the roadside helpless, as neither of them had the skill in changing a flat tire. Of course, both are replete with the vast and immense knowledge of relativity, splitting atoms, and cosmology. Yet, both were rendered immobile by an utter lack of ability to change a flat tire. A man in bicycle came along, and finding out their predicament, changed their flat in a matter of minutes. When the man was finished with his good deed, he was aghast to learn that the two men he helped in their predicament were the two greatest intellectuals of his century. Here were intellectual giants out to change the world but unable to change a tire. 

Such ironies are bound to happen if we are unable to improve ourselves in the workplace. Most employees, once they become regularly employed, become safely badged in their jobs and create comfort zones around them. They give the following excuses. “Let the young people avail of learning; they need it. I will retire soon, I don’t need it. I am old. I don’t have the patience to learn new things.”

Man must learn continuously. We must not detest new knowledge. We must encourage our workers to have an open mind to learning. We must remember that it is imperative for an organization to be both a learning and teaching entity. Let’s assist our workforce in learning new technology, new trends, new knowledge in order to survive, to persist, to be relevant.

One very excellent example in workplace learning is a company in Subic Bay Freeport and a member of People Management Association of the Philippines, Subic Chapter. Recently, Mondriaan Aura College, PMAP Subic member, conducted a learning session to SUBICWATER employees on the topic, “The Heart of Customer Service”. The company needed to remind their workforce on customer service from time to time. There are some things that the attendees already knew but need to be reminded of, and there are things that were new to them. I saw the eagerness of the employees to learn and impart what they know. This is why the management, through Rolando G. Decena, corporate management services division head, and HR department head Lei Santos are always on their feet in giving a series of training and seminars to their employees, truly making SUBICWATER a “Benchmark of Excellence”. 

Madrinian 1
PMAP SUBIC members, Subic Water and Mondriaan AURA College 

SUBICWATER has proven that their employees have the passion to attend learning sessions because they know that it is for their own career advancement. They even take their own initiative by learning either through social media or enroling in formal classes. One employee commented that she will always have time to learn because she owes it to herself to improve and develop herself out of her commitment to her company. 

According to Mr. Decena, SUBICWATER’s training and development plan incorporates strategies to achieve both the company’s short and long-term objectives and the developmental needs of the personnel. The training and development plan includes:

a. Skills Enhancement Training to close or eliminate the gaps between the requirements of the jobs and the present capabilities of the position holders.

b. Professional and Personality Development Training to upgrade the professional level of the associates, and improve core personality, values, and potentials. This program also serves as support for the company’s succession plan.

c. The Executive Development Program, meanwhile, addresses the perceived weak areas of the management team to enhance their supervisory, managerial, and leadership skills.

Corollary to this, organizations must trickle down new knowledge to the lower echelons. No one should be exempted as no research has concluded that too much knowledge is bad or hazardous to one’s health and well-being. Of course, you do not expect everybody to jump right into the “pool of knowledge”. There will certainly be resistance. That is why we should undertake behavior modification techniques, offer incentives, promotions, rewards, with the end in view of making employees take to knowledge naturally. Soon our workers will realize the immense benefits that workplace learning will reap for them professionally.

During the learning session we conducted with SUBICWATER, I was introduced by no less than the President of Mondriaan Aura College, Edgar Geniza. He said a lot of good things about me but when I approached the center stage, I could not turn on the microphone. So, I told the participants that I admit, there are things that I still need to learn. 

None of us can boast that we know everything. We must be humble enough to admit that we need to learn more and practice what we have learned to stay relevant in this era of disruption.  

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