"Your business is as smart as the sum of your team's education."
Anyone who’s been with an organization for a few years or has ever led a group understands the wisdom of that statement. Thought leaders, innovators and visionaries can drive an organization to new heights, but creating a culture where learning permeates every level of the company can lead to a more measured, lasting impact. To achieve such an outcome, that sum of a team’s education cannot be static. College offers a good foundation, but doing a deep dive into a specific subject at the start of a career doesn’t cut it anymore (if it ever did)—especially in today’s fast-paced world. Today, everyone is expected to continually augment skills and stay abreast of the latest technology, news and developments.
That’s why it should come as no surprise that insurance organizations are rapidly shifting
from prioritizing “knowledge workers” to seeking out “learning workers.” That constant hunger for new information and education takes a different kind of skill set, one that is not focused solely on coverages, contracts or sales. Instead, employees need to learn how to learn.
Two Learning Mindsets
Carol Dweck dug deep into this lifelong pursuit of knowledge in her landmark research and developed what she calls the growth mindset
. She posits that learning and intelligence involve two basic mindsets. Some people have a fixed mindset. They believe that intelligence is static—something you’re born with. Individuals with a fixed mindset spend more time confirming and justifying their existing intelligence and less time learning.
Those with a growth mindset, however, believe that intelligence can be shaped and developed throughout their lives. They’re quicker to embrace new ideas, find inspiration in others and seek out new avenues of learning.
See also: The Formula for Getting Growth Results
This divide in our approach to learning starts early. Dweck observed fixed and growth mindsets in four-year-old children, with some opting to redo a puzzle they had already completed (i.e., confirm their intelligence) and others moving on to a more challenging game.
Supporting a Growth Mindset
Dweck’s research took the business world by storm, and many employers quickly began hiring employees with a growth mindset. However, Dweck says that some of her findings have been misinterpreted. She’s quick to point out
that there’s more to a growth mindset than just effort, and no individual can have a growth mindset about everything all the time.
Organizations need more than an impassioned mission statement to develop a growth mindset. Employees should feel supported and rewarded in their pursuit of new knowledge and ideas.
That’s easier said than done. Lifelong learning is often touted as an ideal we should all work toward, but it can be ambiguous. In reality, especially on the job, lifelong learning should be more specific than just “know more stuff.”
Here are a few tangible ideas for employers to support a growth mindset.
1. Set the expectation early
You can start emphasizing lifelong learning even before a job offer. Prioritize resumes from applicants who seek new knowledge and experiences. During interviews, questions like “What’s the last book you read?” or “What are you working on learning right now?” can identify a growth mindset and help you bring in the right people.
When new employees start, build learning into their daily work by including it in your formalized onboarding process. Keep that momentum going after they settle in by integrating learning into performance reviews. During reviews, press employees for specific examples of how they stay current on their industry.
2. Establish specific goals and timelines
Harvard Business Review
has some great insight
on turning a “vague desire to improve learning” into specific next steps. One core idea is to establish specific goals—instead of deciding to simply read more, commit to reading one book a month or subscribe to a daily insurance industry email newsletter (and actually read it!).
These goals should be structured and have clear objectives. They should be reviewed and adjusted as part of official performance reviews to make it clear that they’re not just nice goals to strive for but something that the organization considers essential.
See also: ‘Jobsolescence’: How Big a Threat?
3. Prioritize hybrid skills
Jobs requiring new skills emerge every day, and the insurance world is no exception. Case in point: Across all industries, the demand for data analytics jobs is up a staggering 372%
since 2011. Not every risk manager or underwriter needs to master data analytics, but, the broader your team’s knowledge base, the more successful your organization will be.
Employees are concerned about shifting skills and expectations, too. Providing them a clear path to on-the-job learning can help alleviate these fears and keep your top people focused on growing within your organization. Prioritizing lifelong learning as an organization is the best way to show that your business values the sum of a team’s education.