Professional development and continued learning is something every company says it emphasizes. All businesses want their employees to get better and improve their skills and most employees see continued learning as a way to grow their careers. However, learning something new takes time. And though everyone has the best intentions to engage with the practice, continuing education is often the first thing that falls off the schedule when times are busy at work.
In this installment of our core values series, we focus on our core value of never stop learning. For Statwax, never stop learning has been a core value of ours since the birth of our company. In our industry – digital marketing- and the markets we serve, we have to know what is new and evolving in our world to best serve our clients and our people. But even though the concept of professional development and learning is embedded in our culture, it can still be tough for our people to make the time to explore something new. Here are a few ways we have made continued learning easier for our team and woven the concept into the fabric of our company.
Professional Development Stipend
There are a lot of great professional development opportunities for our team to choose from, and some of them cost money. Our goal is that the ability to gain critical knowledge that either helps an individual, or benefits our company and clients, doesn’t go unlearned because of cost. That is why we provide our team with professional development dollars to grow their skills.
Each fiscal year we set aside a set amount of dollars to be used exclusively by our people for continuing education. To tap into this resource, our team members must do two things. First, they must fill out a request form for the money. The request form details to our leadership team what the individual will get from the learning, what the company will get from the learning, and an estimated cost of the opportunity. The requests are then sent to and approved by the leadership team within a few weeks of submission (quicker if the opportunity is more pressing).
The second is that the person must come back and present any learnings to their individual service teams or to the entire agency. That way, the knowledge they’ve gained can be learned and used beyond their own experience and work to lift the skills of the group.
By providing a stipend for our folks to engage in continued learning our team has been able to grow their skills through attending conferences, webinars, speaking series, and even take classes to obtain advanced degrees and certificates.
Company Lunch and Learns
As was mentioned, making time for professional development can be hard, especially in a fast-paced agency like ours. That is why in addition to providing our people the monetary means to pursue learning opportunities they find on their own, our company also dedicates specific times for the company to learn as a whole. We do this by conducting lunch and learns.
Twice a month, we set aside a dedicated hour time slot on everyone’s calendar for the company to come together and learn something new. Topics range from new concepts in technical knowledge to leadership concepts and personal growth ideas. Our goal is that even if an individual doesn’t have time to pursue any new knowledge on their own, they always know they will have these dedicated times to learn something new.
Professional Development Bingo
Another way that we help our employees make time for professional development is to incentivize it. We know, there are many people who might frown at this practice – shouldn’t wanting to get better be motivated from within each person? We agree to some extent, but we also know that having a bit of gamification and reward for learning can also help establish it as a habit.
We incentivize learning through what we call professional development bingo. The concept behind this program is that each individual member at our company gets a personalized “card” (read: Google sheet) with 25 different professional development activities. These activities include direct learning (like webinars or classes) but also learning in the forms of meeting with others and teaching others. For every square completed, a team member must share what they did to have it marked off their card. For every row with all squares complete the individual gets a monetary bonus at the moment of completion. To track progress (and submission for complete squares) we created a specific Slack channel for people to follow. We include a leaderboard of sorts at the end of each month in that channel and in our regular employee newsletter.
Over the years, we have seen participation in this program grow. Our team enjoys the friendly competition of who is leading and completing squares and rows, and all along the way they are learning and sharing what knowledge they have gained. This regular infusion of new concepts not only helps our team and its members gain new skills, but benefits our clients as we pitch new ideas, strategies, and tactics learned through this process to them.
Knowledge Share Slack Channels
The final way we encourage professional development and learning is by providing resources through dedicated Slack channels. Our agency has been using the messaging app Slack for a few years, and it has been especially useful during the pandemic. Though it is a place to chat about our clients and our team work, we also felt like it could serve as a repository of knowledge. So we created dedicated “knowledge share” channels, where people can throw in links and bits of advice based on their service team or the general industries we serve. When people have free time or when we onboard a new person to our company or a team, the first place we direct them to get up to speed or learn something new are these channels. We find that having this dedicated space is a great way for people to have a searchable library of things to learn or to refer back to when they are engaging with something new.
How Never Stop Learning is Incorporated Into Our Work
The drive and motivation to never stop learning as an agency is critical to our success as a business. We work in a fast, ever-evolving space, digital marketing, and being behind on the latest strategies, tactics, and platforms can mean the difference between a business wanting to work with us or choosing another company. In this way, learning is key to our success from a new business perspective.
Additionally important is how continued learning helps our current partners. The practice of seeking knowledge bleeds over into the day-to-day work activities of our people. It drives them to want to know more about the behavior of a client’s ideal audiences. It pushes them to uncover and learn the nuances of customer journeys. It motivates them to want to discover and experiment with new ways to do their jobs. All of these types of learning and discovery not only help the individual grow, but they help the client on the path to achieving their goals – even if the learning led to a failure (as failure is often the greatest teacher of them all). Our partners benefit from the ideas and value-add services that come from this learning by our team, and many of them often cite those as equally as important as the actual results we generate, for why they continue to work with us.
We truly believe that learning is the key to success as an agency and personal and professional growth by our people is good for them, our business, and our clients. By providing opportunities and means to our people to improve their skills, we believe we can stay ahead of our fast-changing industry and in front of the competition we and our partners face. The return we have seen on these small but mighty investments have been amazing and critical to our growth as a business.
Want to learn more about how we put our core values into action as a company? Follow us on our Instagram.