In the research field, training is key. It is both a regulatory requirement and a necessity in a technologically advancing environment. All institutions are required to provide annual
training, and in order to document compliance, make the training mandatory for certain groups of workers. Specialty certifications, essential for advancement in most institutions, require
both study and hands-on training, and managers spend time
encouraging and supporting their preparation.
Certification programs such as AALAS Technician
Certification coupled with the Registry encourage career-long
learning, with a generous list of acceptable training and CEU
options. Many professions, including veterinary technicians,
have a continuing education requirement. In addition, technicians are encouraged to attend seminars, regional meetings,
and training offered through Human Resources Departments.
Many managers believe that if they offer such opportunities for
training, staff will take advantage of them, and are surprised
when this is not the case.
How do you encourage and support career-advancing and
personal enrichment learning? The general perception is that
all motivation starts in the individual, and if the technician
doesn’t exhibit interest, nothing much can be done to motivate
them. I believe that the truth lies somewhere in between.
According to one source,1 a 2013 survey of business leaders
shared that a “demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems” mattered more than
a specific degree. Lifelong learning in almost any field will facilitate learning these and other needed life skills, including some
soft skills not honed earlier in life.
Once identified, the self-motivated individual only requires
managers who support the spark. Provide the opportunity and
they will do the rest. Their motivation is learning for learning’s
sake or part of a larger life plan. For the disengaged, the manager’s job focuses more on invitations to learn and creating
the climate where learning is both encouraged and rewarded.
Absent that, staff may get to a comfortable level in the company hierarchy and reject additional training.
WHAT’S THE BENEFIT?
Focus on dult learning concepts for some insight into staff
development. They do not usually gravitate to learning for the
sake of learning. They want to know what is in it for them.
How will this training help them?
Take some time to understand what interests your staff. The
results may surprise you. This knowledge enables managers
to seek out appropriate learning opportunities. Relevance to
current work, suit-
ability for upcom-
ing projects, and
can be great moti-
vators for ongoing
Accept the fact
that not everyone
thinks about training opportunities
as a career booster.
Paint them a picture of life after
their current position, whether with your company or another.
Encourage technicians to think about their future and emphasize that training provides the foundation for potential opportunities, no matter where they are. Remind them that everything
they learn can help them advance.
Emphasize learning for learning’s sake. This is a concept
that may not be familiar to people whose education was
focused on “getting a job,” Expanding horizons may open
entirely new areas of interest, allowing technicians to find or
develop a niche specialty within the organization.
MAKE IT IMPORTANT
Foster a culture of learning. Make time for training, either as
a group or individually. Respect the scheduled training time in
the same way you would block out time for a meeting. Once a
new skill is learned, allow staff time to practice it until it is second nature. Learning that is not reinforced is quickly forgotten,
and learning in a vacuum is not retained and may even influence future attitudes toward training. 2 Follow up training with
activities and opportunities to test what has been learned and
encourage technicians to apply new knowledge to old problems.
The combination of knowing your staff, seeking out opportunities to challenge them and demonstrating a respect for learning can be a powerful motivational tool for career-long growth.
To view the references for this article, go to www.alnmag.
Ann Marie Dinkel, RLATG, has over 30 years of facility and
staff management experience and serves as Adjunct Faculty
at the Delaware Technical Community College and the Drexel
MLAS program. She is a consultant and trainer in Laboratory
Motivating LAS Technicians to Embrace