How do we keep them engaged in learning?

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As the owner of a company, whose biggest mission is to transform the training culture in the facilities maintenance and operations industry, I am always focused on learning, how content is delivered, and what keeps people engaged. I also know that learning starts at an early age. So did it spark my attention when I saw Hayle, my best friend Natasha's 6-year-old daughter, do extra homework on her own? Absolutely!

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While guests were over, on this Saturday of her four day Thanksgiving vacation, it was quite riveting to see this first grader engrossed in her math and reading workbooks. To be clear, this homework was from a paid program outside of her regular schoolwork. I asked Natasha, "What is it about this program that keeps her so engaged?" She said, "She gets points for completing her homework and she then uses her earned points to buy items in their store." I said, “Wow! What a brilliant way to motivate kids to learn.” As a FYI - Hayle had a hard time with her reading and math before her mom enrolled her in this program.

What was complementary to this story was the article that happened to show up on my LinkedIn feed later that night. US students aren’t bad at math—they’re just not motivated. You can read the details in the article, but what stuck out the most was: "The US ranked 36th and China ranked 1st on the 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). They told a subset of test-takers that they would get cash rewards for each question they answered correctly. Because PISA tests are taken anonymously–unlike finals or college entrance exams–the students taking the assessments had very little stake in them. Results showed that American high-schoolers who were given cash incentives scored significantly higher than those who didn’t."

What did I learn from the early learning behavior of my friends’ daughter and the research from this article? In America we have been, and are constantly being programmed to expect more. Some of you may criticize the idea of kids being paid to learn, but don’t hate the player, hate the game! The game is called Business in America, it’s what makes America Great! It is a culture of motivation and innovation, which has been engrained into creating businesses. Similar to the creative business, of paid programs that are encouraging early learning, like what Hayle is attending.

As I write this article I think about the challenges facility managers will face, especially those that don’t offer a continuous incentive to motivate their new and existing employees to learn. The new generation is looking for more than job security, or routine work that apps can do. Most don’t know what it is to get their hands dirty, not because they don’t want to, more so because they were never trained how to. Think about it, how many people change their own oil in their car anymore? How many people complete home repairs on their own? The reality is, the way we’ve done things in the past will continue to change, that means we also have to change. How we keep children, students, and employees engaged is something to think about. They are the future of our workforce.

Millennial employees, like all Americans, are looking to get motivated to learn in their jobs. They are looking for the monetary compensation but are also looking to work in places that are making a difference. Don’t be mad that we were trained to take jobs out of necessity and they weren’t. The younger generation isn’t faced with the same hardships we faced, so what makes you think they want to do the jobs that we didn’t WANT to, but HAD to? Obviously money will always be an incentive but with this new generation, its more about purpose and an opportunity to be a part of something bigger than just doing a routine job. It is a challenge that I hear business owners discussing more and more as they are having a hard time finding skilled employees for the tasks they want done. All I can say is, “Get Creative!”

The purpose of my articles is to not only raise awareness on this topic but to spark ideas on how we can make a stronger workforce within facilities. As much as I enjoy technology, employees are who I focus on and how they can reinvent themselves to keep their jobs is what I'm more concerned about.

I hope my examples help spark some creativity. If you would like to share what you’re doing in your facility, Click here to contact us. We would love to hear your story on what's worked for your organization and, with permission, possibly write about it in an upcoming article.

~Annmarie Bhola