As any reader of detective novels will know, any self-respecting criminal needs the means, the motive and the opportunity. Now no-one’s suggesting that employees should behave like criminals, but they should be given every chance to learn. We’re left with the issue of motive:
Intrinsic motivation: Bottom-up learning is most likely to occur if an employee has a desire to improve their performance, or at least to maintain their performance in the face of changing circumstances. Without motivation, the motive has to be externally provided.
Modelling: One of the most powerful influences on our behaviour is the example provided by others that we respect. If managers and high profile peers exhibit the behaviour of effective bottom-up teachers and learners, then the pattern is established.
Tangible rewards: Ideally, those employees that contribute most to their own development and to the learning of those around them will benefit from this is some tangible way, whether that’s through an increase in pay or through a promotion. To make the connection between learning and reward absolutely clear, it makes sense for this to be explicitly included in an organisation’s performance management policy.
Intangible rewards: A reward does not have to be bankable to act as a powerful incentive; often all that’s needed is a little recognition, whether that’s from managers or peers. An employee whose manager thanks them for taking the initiative in meeting their own learning needs or by helping to meet those of their peers, will be only too keen to repeat the process.
Remember that it is natural for human beings to co-operate with each other, whether on a ‘I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine’ basis, or because a goal can only be achieved though combined effort. We are usually quite happy to share expertise, to be a teacher as well as a learner – it’s flattering to us. Too much in the way of external incentive may only cause suspicion; too little and it looks like this behaviour is not valued by the organisation.
Coming next in chapter 6: Conditions for success with bottom-up learning
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