What defines business growth? You can look at it three ways: hiring more employees, generating more profits or producing better work.
While most companies aim for the first two, many are better off focusing on the latter. With a quality-first mindset, the other two naturally follow.
For us, this meant investing in employee education. Creating a culture of constant regeneration results in a virtuous cycle of learning more, teaching more, and creating higher-quality relationships. When it came time to grow past our initial phase, we didn’t put up a job posting for sales roles. Instead, we hired a director of education to create a training model for the ongoing growth of our employees and partner companies.
It’s not the most conventional approach for a 30-employee company, but it has paid off.
Growing through education
Education sessions build new relationships, lead to new opportunities, boost recruiting, and even generate direct revenue.
But the biggest benefits are long-term. An education model creates a process for leaders and employees to follow up on suggestions for improvement. A recent example: Within weeks of pointing out we could proactively address accessibility on our websites, one of our engineers led companywide sessions to simulate the use of popular sites through devices for the visually and hearing-impaired. We had an immediate course of action and got better because of our education model.
The right employees want to grow and learn, but the American Psychological Association found less than half of workers are satisfied with their workplaces’ growth opportunities. For us, hiring a director of education meant committing to our employees’ development — a smart move when you consider that investing more in employees’ growth also brings in more profit.
3 ways to integrate the education model
If you don’t know where to start with an education-driven approach, try these three steps:
1. Put somebody in charge. The best way to ensure results is to make the effort somebody’s primary responsibility — in this case, someone with expertise in education, engagement, and training. We were very fortunate to have a director who could tell us the best way to roll out our program (instead of the other way around).
Hire for this role earlier than you’re comfortable. It may seem like a big leap when a company is young, but the risk of not training employees is far greater.
2. Host internal training sessions. Our company conducts two kinds of sessions. We have 30-minute “lightning talks” to provide small, fun doses of information on anything: think health, chess, or cooking.
But the core of our internal training is hour-long interactive sessions hosted by team members on specific topics to benefit the wider company. In one example, a marketer filled us in on recent changes to Google’s algorithms. In another session, designers and project managers changed places: A project manager designed something, and our design team had to defend it in front of a client. The exercise built empathy and collaboration between the teams.
3. Build workshops with companies that complement you. In a more interconnected world, knowledge spread across companies is more useful than knowledge contained to one company.
Recently, clients told us about a need for understanding both aspects of lead generation: driving traffic and converting that traffic. We partnered with a leading PR company to put on a session that walked through every step of that funnel, with a subject matter expert hosting each step.
A well-educated team not only prevents you from becoming obsolete, but it also empowers your people, makes room for new partnerships, and optimizes your processes to the fullest. You’ll see higher-quality output that will reap even more rewards. With education, you can’t lose.
Derek Nelson is a partner and creative director at Clique Studios, where he helps build and introduce innovative solutions for the digital market. Based in Chicago, Clique Studios is an award-winning design and engineering company building digital experiences for high-growth organizations.