Learning On-The-Job: Turning Team Meetings into a Learning and Development Opportunity
Team meetings consume so much of our time and yet we often fail to realise their potential for learning and development for managers and staff alike. In challenging economic times, it is critical for organisations to get the best from their investment in staff. With reduced budgets for learning and development, managers must focus on innovative and effective ways to enhance learning on-the-job. Managers, supervisors and team leaders need to think about how to facilitate staff learning through ordinary day-to-day workplace activities. Team meetings are commonplace activities that offer a range of opportunities for learning. While learning is implied through the sharing of information and problem solving that typifies meetings, there are many other ways that staff learning and development might be achieved and consolidated through team meetings. More generally, staff will benefit from some type of structure designed to identify and capture their learning from team meetings.
Here are a couple of ideas about how to bring a more conscious learning and development focus to your team meetings:
1. Have staff members deliver presentations on relevant topics
Staff presentations can be used as an effective follow-up to conferences and formal training and as a way of extending learning to the team more broadly. In addition, presentations might focus on:
- new methodologies
- the impact of key strategic initiatives
- new business opportunities
- debriefing a project that did not go well
- an ethical dilemma
- updates about clients’ needs and responses.
As well as conveying useful information to participants in a team meeting, this activity enables presenters to develop their communication skills and gain confidence in public speaking. Feedback in relation to “communicating with influence” capabilities can be provided. Whatever the topic, it is important to stay grounded by focusing on how knowledge or information applies on–the-job. Staff members need to ask ‘how does this relate to my work?’
2. Build in reflective processes to develop capabilities and efficacy of team meetings
We can spend such a lot of time in team meetings! If we could handle meetings better, everyone in the team would benefit as well as the organisation. Building in reflective processes for meetings and making them ‘business as usual’, reinforces the importance of learning and improvement, as well as enhancing efficiency and effectiveness. Some suggestions for reflective processes in meetings are:
- talk about the team meeting dynamics (for example, check that everyone had a chance to provide input)
- evaluate outcomes and achievements and collaborate to identify and address shortcomings
- review meeting processes in a timely way (for example, ask if people are satisfied with how decisions are being made)
- be prepared to question assumptions and encourage people to contribute from a ‘devil’s advocate’ position (model a constructive way of doing this)
- ask for feedback about your own performance in the team meeting (to encourage positive and corrective feedback as a normal part of team business).
3. Capitalise on the learning and development opportunities inherent in team meetings
Team meetings represent a huge investment in time and resources and it is important to extract the maximum learning from the meeting process. Here are some ways of doing this:
- rotate roles such as chair and secretary to build capabilities of all team members
- rotate tasks such as note taking, leading discussions, decision-making and time-keeping to develop staff members’ skills
- encourage team members to support each other through these processes by coaching, role modelling, and providing opportunities to shadow
- focus at the outset of team meetings on one key skill that participants can practise throughput the meeting (e.g. active listening, assertion or challenging assumptions in a supportive way).
These actions will signal to staff that learning and development are highly valued by the organisation and help to build a strong performance culture in the team There is no doubt that there are many other ways to maximise learning and development through team meetings and more broadly through other on-the-job activities.