The need to learn and grow is a natural instinct for human beings. We can learn and grow by finding more efficient ways to do our jobs. Where there is growth, there is innovation, and this is a breeding ground for more positive and refreshing perspectives toward ourselves and others.
In today's work environment, productivity does not come from working harder, it comes from working "smarter." This is why work environments that promote learning are attractive to employees. Having the opportunity to learn and grow on the job is one of the 12 key discoveries from a multiyear research effort by The Gallup Organization. Our objective was to identify the consistent dimensions of workplaces with high levels of four critical outcomes: employee retention, customer metrics, productivity, and profitability. The research identified 12 dimensions that consistently correlate with these four outcomes -- dimensions Gallup now uses to measure the health of a workplace. An associated research effort, in which Gallup studied more than 80,000 managers, focused on discovering what great managers do to create quality workplaces.
We have all worked with people who stopped learning and growing. Suddenly, they have all the answers and become unable or unwilling to see alternative solutions. Their attitude infects both the workplace culture as a whole and their coworkers individually. It limits the very growth and innovation that create competitive advantages for today's companies.
Why do people become unwilling to learn and grow? Because learning and growing involve risk -- the risk of challenging the status quo. Change brings about unfamiliarity, and with unfamiliarity comes insecurity.
Every day, great managers face the challenge of creating a culture that is open to new ideas and lets employees explore possible implications of those ideas without fear of rejection or retribution. Great managers know that, initially, good ideas are not always perfectly thought-out and executable. Good ideas are often abstract, and need discussion so they can be defined and sculpted. This process takes time and energy, and both are limited resources. Nevertheless, this investment is imperative to making good ideas useful. For employees, the creation of a culture receptive to new ideas also involves significant belief and trust in their managers and teams.
A company's future is dependent upon the learning and growth of the employees who are closest to the action. Great managers, employees, and teams are never quite satisfied with current ways of doing things. They always feel a slight tension about finding better, more efficient ways to work.