Many years ago, at my college graduation, I heard another student say, “Finally, I will never have to open another book in my life!” Education does not stop when you leave high school or college. I am sure that person has since discovered he wasn’t actually finished with books. In reality, lifelong learning comes in many forms and can help us every day on our life’s journey.
Learning takes many forms including traveling, listening to podcasts, learning the intricacies of a new technology, attending seminars in person or on the web, taking online classes and reading or listening to every book you can. Jim Rohn, a well-known motivational teacher and success coach, has promoted the fact that reading [or listening] is fundamental to success. Not everything you read or listen to has to be in the business you are engaged in. In fact, some of my best insights into problems that I encountered in my field came from reading a book on something nontechnical.
To be able to keep up with the impact of new technology on our jobs, we must learn everything we can to ensure we are at the top of our game.
It has been said that new technology will eliminate many jobs but create many new ones. This means that, to recognize and use these opportunities, we must continuously learn how to approach and apply new technology and possibly learn new skills in the process.
Ravi Kumar, president of digital services firm Infosys, Bangalore, India, said “We have to be lifelong learners.”
Kumar said in a recent interview that “every large enterprise and every large government ecosystem is thinking about automation, [artificial intelligence] and New Age digital technologies taking away jobs of the past and creating jobs for the future. That has happened in most tech revolutions. But the sheer scale and accelerated pace of this sets it apart. It’s a tectonic shift in the way businesses and operating models have evolved in the last few years.”
Obviously, these technological changes also affect how businesses run. The easiest way to learn anything today is online. Many colleges and universities have courses that will help people run businesses more efficiently.
This is not to say you need to get a degree but you can take courses in subjects or areas where you know you are weak. Improving an understanding of the business aspect will likely free up some management time and allow a business to make a better profit. Additionally, you may learn about issues other businesspeople have encountered and solved, so you can pass that on to your staff and technicians. Lifelong learning applies to all employees in a business.
As an electrical contractor, you have a responsibility to keep abreast of technological developments and to transfer that into growing a business. This information should then be communicated to your technicians to help enter new markets and to ensure the work is performed properly.
How do you encourage your technicians to learn more? Maybe you motivate them with a two-hour, after-work dinner and learning session. I recall a friend who did this once a week. His goal was to have the journeymen teach a section of the National Electric Code and then a five-question test was given. Everyone who got all the questions right received $50 on the spot.
Teaching a subject also helps the teacher, and in this case the journeymen almost always develop a better understanding of the subject, too. Throughout the presentation, my friend would observe and add information or guidance as necessary and answer any questions the journeymen could not answer. The journeymen teachers received $100.
Beyond ensuring technicians understand the codes they must abide by, you can arrange for them to take web-based training with the promise of pay increases when the courses are satisfactorily completed. Another way would be to find relevant podcasts that will help move technicians forward. Encourage them to listen during lunch and then test them to ensure they have an appropriate understanding of the subject. There are a multitude of other unique ways to motivate technicians to learn and grow in the profession.
Some may have gotten where they are today through brute force and working hard on each project tackled. However, electrical contractors may not be learning all they could for both self-improvement and future business success. As C.S. Lewis said, “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.”
Develop a lifelong learning plan today. Determine what you need to take your business to the next level and how to get there. Make the time to develop this plan. You might be thinking, “I am too busy to make a commitment to lifelong learning.” My response is, with that attitude, you are only working toward failure. Develop the plan to include the management team, staff and technicians. Remember that even for technicians, knowing the codes is only one aspect of their technical development.