Article by Dr Tanya Boyd, Learning Architect at Insights Learning and Development
Skilling, upskilling, reskilling is the name of the game in the world today.
Whether your role, career or organisation has changed, or perhaps you simply need to conduct your role in an environment that has changed from what it was two years ago, continually updating your skills is essential.
While the pandemic accelerated the learning industry’s shift from in-room training to online training, the basic premise of corporate learning has not changed drastically. Most learning is still offered through courses, and while there is growing recognition of the value of personalised, self-directed learning journeys, most courses are still primarily offered under an overarching “one size fits all” philosophy. Changes to L&D are coming, but until then, you can accelerate the speed and effectiveness of your own skill development through the practice of activating awareness.
Activating awareness means being able to draw on your awareness about personal strengths, gaps, and resources related to a specific outcome in order to guide effort and energy to achieve that outcome.
You probably already do this in many areas of your life. If you want to learn something, what do you do? Search a how-to video on YouTube? Read a book? Trial and error? At some level you are aware of your best way to learn, and you also will be aware of what you already know about this particular area of interest and the specific gap you need to fill. This makes your learning process effective and efficient.
You can intentionally apply a similar approach to your job-related upskilling by activating your awareness related to a new desired skill.
- Identify Strengths – Ask yourself what you already know about this skill. Where are you on the continuum between brand new and mastery? It is likely that you already have some skills that are tangential to the new skill. If you need to learn how to code in Python, maybe you already know coding in another language. If you need to learn how to give a presentation to a large audience, maybe you speak up regularly in meetings. Identifying what you already know or can do starts you off on a positive note, and helps you start to see what parts of the new skill you will want to focus your efforts on. If you have a hard time identifying related strengths or skills, utilising a personal preferences profile or skills audit can help.
- Identify Challenges – Ask yourself what is likely to be your biggest challenge in learning this new skill. This could be a very broad range of things from a specific sub-skill to finding it hard to prioritise time to study and practice the skill. The key here is to identify what YOUR specific biggest obstacle is likely to be. A friend learning the same skill would likely choose something else. You will know you’ve got it when you feel a bit uncomfortable. This is because thinking about what might trip us up can cause some anxiety; no one likes to think about possible failure. Sit with the discomfort; help is coming.
- Identify Resources – Take the time to identify what resources YOU will leverage to overcome YOUR challenge. The answer may not come to you immediately, and you may be tempted to skip over this and just get on with the “course”; but taking the time up front to identify what you will do when that big bad obstacle shows up and how you will overcome it is the one thing that will make the greatest impact on your speed to performance. It also will give your confidence a boost as you start out on your learning journey because you know how you will handle the biggest monster you will face. If you struggle to answer this question, use a strengths profile or ask for input from other people who know you well. You don’t need to go it alone; other people often see more resourcefulness in us than we see in ourselves. And, your “tool” for dealing with the monster may in fact BE another person; garner their support before you start out.
- Your pathway – Before you start on your journey, think about the different pathways you could take to get to the desired outcome. Your organisation may insist on a one-size-fits-all course; if so, then the previous three questions will help you get what you need out of that course. BUT, an even better option is to identify YOUR best pathway and follow it. If you are someone who learns by reading, look for ways to read your way to the new skill. If you learn by trial and error, ask for projects that require the new skill and put in some safeguards to guide you along the way. If you find the pathway that best fits your learning preferences, it is likely to be the most effective AND EFFICIENT way for you to get there.
Keep coming back to awareness as you progress along your journey. Celebrate your successes! As you learn more, does that change what you believe you need to develop or what the best way forward for you would be? Once you make it past your biggest obstacle, what is the next obstacle you will face, and how will you overcome it?
Activating your awareness in this way for a specific desired outcome will, over time, increase your overall awareness and this will positively impact performance in all areas of your work.