How do you manage ongoing learning and keep up?

Each week on the SMB Community Podcast during one of the early segments we take a question from an MSP. These come from email and from the peer groups that James and I both run separately. This question is one that I take very seriously.

How do you find the time to learn? How do you find the time for your staff to learn? How do you motivate them to learn? How do you motivate yourself to learn? These are the questions.

Change

There’s nothing stagnant about being in business in the IT world. Change is simply a matter of fact, and the rate of change is picking up, dramatically. The CEO of Microsoft said a few years ago that we would see the same amount of change in the next 10 years that we did in the previous 40. Think about where technology was 40 years ago – what was the state of computer networking, mobile tech and apps in 1984? We’re a few years into his 10-year prediction and so far, he’s right. Change is happening and it’s happening faster. This rate of change is causing people a lot of stress.

People feel stress because they don’t like getting uncomfortable and they fear getting left behind. If you get too far behind in this industry, you’ll soon be out of a job or out of business. Imagine getting 5 years behind the times now and that being the equivalent of being 20 years behind in the year 2000!

That’s the kind of change stress that we’re talking about.

Why is learning important?

Most IT businesses are led by technical people. Most technical people love to learn. Learning is very much like problem solving. In both cases the goal is to figure out how to do something.

I’ll be very bold here and say, that if you don’t love to learn, then you’re in the wrong business. And if you have staff that doesn’t love to learn, then they shouldn’t be working for you. Stagnant staff will bring your business down.

Motivating yourself

As the technical leader for your business, you should be the smartest person the room. That doesn’t mean that you’re the most knowledgeable person on every topic though. The smartest person in the room knows how this technology, that you’re studying, can be used to the advantage of your client. Always study with the client in mind.

If you have the client in mind when you’re studying new technology, then you’ll always be driving your business forward. That’s your motivation and this what makes you the smartest person in the room.

How do you find the time? You just do because learning makes you happy and relives stress. Take an hour a week. Block it off on the calendar and watch a webinar or two.

Motivating your staff

Right from the early days of running my MSP, I established a learning schedule for technical staff and wrote it into their employment contract because that it how highly I value skilled staff. They had to be available once a month on a Tuesday evening until 7pm because from 4-7pm we were learning together. We were also eating together and developing bonds.

We work through labs. We attend online courses. We watch webinars. We take certification exams. We do it consistently. We do it together and we all ask questions without judgement.

Tech employees are contractually obligated to learn. But that doesn’t really motivate them. What motivates them is being in a business culture where learning is a priority and where everyone is visibly doing it.

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