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Dec 5, 2013

What do you do with an employee who’s just not interested in learning?

I once had an employee who spent each lunch hour reading novels. Now, I have nothing against novels, or lunch, for that matter.

The problem: This particular employee was falling behind her co-workers in technology.

Many times, I invited her to take time to read about the technology we use in the business. Although she said “OK,” she always went back to reading her novels.

Having employees who pursue active learning

Eventually, during a downturn, she was the first one I had to let go. She was upset and I felt bad for her, but I had to point out that she only hurt herself when she was unwilling to sharpen her skills.

This kind of employee can be a real drag on your business, especially when you work in technology, where change is a constant. They may be excellent at the one thing you hired them to do, but once you ask them to take on a new task or learn new technology, they start digging in their heels. They’re content to do just the job they were hired to do, thank you very much.

Great companies have employees who actively pursue continuous learning. Why? They want to be better — better at their jobs, and better at everything they do.

And, they want their company to do better than the competition, and thrive and prosper.

They know the world is changing fast, and the only way to succeed long-term is a strategy of growth. They know they must improve — with continuous learning.

But this is a problem in our nation: Too many workers think their education ends when they get a job after high school or college. They go to work, learn their job, collect a paycheck, and think they’re doing everything right. They’re not.

Working to learn and not get stagnant

When they stop learning new things relevant to their career, they become stagnant. Years later, when their personal value or production has not kept up with their salary increases and they’re paid more than they’re worth, the company will sweep them out in a round of layoffs.

In my companies, we foster a culture of continuous learning. In fact, it’s part of our core values. With so many resources available to my employees — websites, webinars, books — there’s really no good excuse for not learning something new.

Every so often I challenge employees to send me their reading list. I’m looking for that passion, that spark — to keep learning more, to keep getting better. That’s what’s going to make us great.

You can certainly try to teach a disinterested employee some new tricks. They may just need a little encouragement or a stern talking-to.

But if they just don’t have that desire to learn new technology, a new idea, a new anything, well, you might need to cut them loose.

Want a great company? Fill it with people who care about becoming great.

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