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A Perspective on Learning

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 13, 2016

By Amy Gibson

Former CEO of GE Jack Welch said, “An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage.”

iStock.com/enviromantic
© iStock.com / enviromantic

Ensuring that employees maintain competence in their field of practice assists workplaces in staying proficient amid constant change.

Organizational learning is becoming increasingly essential for businesses to remain competitive in today’s global, fast-paced reality. Ensuring that employees maintain competence in their field of practice assists workplaces in staying proficient amid constant change.

Businesses in the coatings industry are no exception to this rule. 

We live in an era of constant change and, consequently, the need for constant learning. Simply communicating and completing daily tasks require the most current knowledge of how people and businesses are accessible.

Technology advances every day, resulting in new, more efficient ways to conduct business and live life. No individual or industry is impenetrable to this reality. To sustain these continual changes, we must invest in changing ourselves.

You Know What You Know

With this ever-changing certainty in mind, what constitutes a coatings expert today? One might argue that expertise is largely a result of experience.

If this is the case—and we are an industry that values experience—then most of our field professionals have had time to fulfill multiple recertification or requalification requirements. Compliance with requalification suggests that professionals have maintained competence in providing quality service, usually based on some measure of field experience.

© iStock.com / BartCo

Experience in itself is an excellent (arguably the best) method of reinforced learning. But experience does not necessarily foster opportunity for new learning.

Experience in itself is an excellent (arguably the best) method of reinforced learning. But experience does not necessarily foster opportunity for new learning.

Consider an information technology professional who graduated in 2001, a time when wireless local area networks (LANs) were the latest development in IT (think back to the time before USB drives, smartphones, tablets, social networking, cloud computing and applications for everything).

This IT professional has worked in his field steadily troubleshooting LAN issues, but has had no formal training or education on technological advancements in IT since 2001. Would you consider this person a competent information technology professional by today’s standards?

While he would have certainly been exposed to new technology over the years, does his formal education in 2001 make him an expert in 2016? If he is continuing to apply knowledge from 2001, his 15-year tenure does not automatically translate to “doing it right” for all of that time.

Now consider a coatings professional who successfully completed formal training in 2001, and has since worked in the field applying the same methods of application, testing or measuring without any successive formal learning of updates in processes, instruments or standards. Should this experienced professional be considered an expert at his/her craft today?

You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

It must be considered that the number of years on the job no longer automatically indicates competence or expertise. In order to maintain professional expertise, learning must continue to occur.

© iStock.com / Olivier Le Moal

An employer should keep in mind that the number of years on the job doesn't mean a worker will exhibit competence or expertise.

If we depend on our most seasoned coatings professionals to protect the world’s infrastructure, what is the length of service necessary to acquire this level of trust? Where is the guarantee that learning has continued to occur within that professional timeline?

Author Daniel J. Boorstin said, “Education is learning what you didn’t even know you didn’t know.” 

What you know becomes far less valuable when factoring in what you don’t know. The victims of this ignorance are the stakeholders associated with your work, who also don’t know what you don’t know.

Reality Check

Even as the value of workplace learning increases in a global marketplace, the factor of cost efficiency is a common barrier for improving job skills. 

If your path of resistance to learning is constructed in dollar signs, consider the benefits and conveniences of online resources to evade the pricey and logistical restrictions of time and location.  

Technology may factor into the call for continuous learning, but it is also your friend. Technology fosters convenience.

So Start Learning … and Never Stop

Get current. Find out what you don’t know. Find out if there is a better way, a revised standard, an instrument upgrade or a new procedure. If you have been using the same practices since 2001 or 2006 or 2011, I can assure you that there is.   

istock/RapidEye
© iStock.com / RapidEye

Make a commitment to invest in the sustainability of your people and your services in preparation for certain change.

As a service to those who are not coatings experts—to those who trust and invest in our industry professionals to honorably protect their assets and well-being—do not depend on years of experience to guarantee competence or expertise. Make a commitment to invest in the sustainability of your people and your services in preparation for certain change.

Make sure experience is not established by getting better at doing something the wrong way.

ABOUT THE BLOGGER

Amy Gibson

Amy Gibson is the manager of training and education services at KTA-Tator Inc. in Pittsburgh, PA. She runs KTA’s coatings and safety training programs and provides curriculum and instructional design consultation. Amy is a master trainer and primary administrator for NCCER (founded as The National Center for Construction Education and Research), and she manages and maintains KTA’s International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET) accreditation. Amy has a master’s in instructional leadership and is certified in online instruction. Training and Certification covers a range of practical topics related to continuing education and learning opportunities to improve your own skills or that of your workforce. Contact Amy.

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Tagged categories: Certifications and standards; Coatings education; Education; Online tools; Worker training

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