Turn Around the Troops

Small Business News
By: Courie Weston
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In a tight labor market, promoting from within is crucial to growing an organization. A new survey can help you pinpoint staff weaknesses and chart a course for correction. Sunny Lurie was working at a bank when she learned what would become the core understanding of her own business.Lurie was a senior performance consultant at Ameritrust when it became Society, then KeyBank. She saw first-hand the power of change.”I saw how people struggled with the unknown,” she says.Lurie also saw co-workers who relied on their managers for job security instead of on confidence in their own abilities to learn and grow in the face of change. Consequently, she dedicated her doctoral research to the study of what she had experienced, titling her dissertation, “Employee Learning in Dynamic Work Settings: Exploration of Adult Learning in Business Organizations.”As a direct result of her research, Lurie devised a survey that became the basis of her company, Advanced Performance Inc. In a nutshell, the survey tests how individuals handle change and the task of learning new skills. Lurie, who has a Ph.D. in organizational systems, says those are key challenges in today’s fast-paced workplace.”There are two major factors that help people become resilient learners,” says Lurie. “The first is growth seeking. The second is approach to the work world, that being either traditional or nontraditional.”

In Lurie’s survey, employees are categorized into types of learners. Resilient learners, those who use a non-traditional approach to the work world and are active in growth seeking are best prepared to face change. Other categories include conventional learners (active growth seeking and traditional approach to the work world); reserved learners (traditional and passive in growth seeking); and as needed (nontraditional and passive in growth seeking.)

One purpose of the survey, titled “Rating My Competitive Edge,” is to help employers measure the ways their employees gain, share and use information. Survey-takers, explains Lurie, “can expect to answer questions about how they learn, such as, ‘Are you sharing knowledge and building relationships with co-workers in order to learn? ‘Are you reading different types of publications to keep updated?’ ‘Do you stay within your comfort zone at work, or try out new and different ways to solve projects?'”

Benefiting most from the survey are businesses which have experienced any of the following: customer satisfaction below par; technology changing the way business is conducted; a loss of employees to competitors in the last year; or a lack of a formal employee appraisal and development plan.

“The survey is most helpful to a business that has experienced a growth rate that is lower than expected,” she says.

“Organizations have benefited from this survey by maximizing employee performance and making the business more competitive while instilling a sense of responsibility for personal growth in employees. Individuals can benefit by improving their performance and becoming more competitive while aiding personal growth and development.”

The most crucial questions focus on the idea of change. As technology expands and forces businesses to update methods quickly, employees must be able to adapt and learn at the same time.

“You have to ask yourself,” says Lurie, “are you doing what it takes to remain competitive or are you falling behind others who are leaping ahead in their knowledge and their skill levels and their know-how?”

By boosting employee learning, you toe the competitive edge. And isn’t that the goal of any business owner?

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