I don´t know if this will work, but I´m going to suggest it anyway. It occurred to me the other day as I responded to an e-mail inquiring about my interest in reviewing a business book that creating a library could enhance your employee development efforts. As a small business owner it´s not easy to convey everything you may learn from a favorite book, magazine article, or something you read in the morning paper. But what if you had a space in your company devoted to learning? What if you encouraged your employees to spend a little time each week perusing periodicals germane to your industry? Maybe you´re cursing at me and my suggestion that your people take time out of their busy days to read. Clearly, you have to decide how much time an employee could devote to this, but it´s important when you´re creating programs or simple some strategies for employee development that you make the tools people need accessible.
Presumably you have a supply shelf or maybe an entire room devoted to envelopes, Post-Its and other can´t-get-through-the-day-without-them office products. But what about the intellectual capital you´re trying to harness? Sure, something that´s really important should appear in everyone´s in-box, electronic and otherwise and with today´s technology it´s a cinch to send someone an article you´ve read online. But there´s something to be said for creating a space or at least a go-to location where people can read what you want them to read, material that along with other best practices can lift your company onto a level of steady growth and success.
Clearly, you can´t force people to learn. And you can´t force them to want to learn. But you can bring the classroom closer, so that the knowledge is easier to reach. Maybe there´s a particular article that would be useful. You mark the title page with a Post-It (does this blogger love Post-Its or what?) so that no one has to study the table of contents for the pertinent information. They just turn to the marked page and read. You might even highlight sections of the article that seem particularly relevant.
Another ground rule you might establish for you and everyone else is the noncompetitive nature of the exercise. In other words, it shouldn´t be your intention to create a high-pressured classroom in which students are vying for your attention by doing all the extra credit work. His or her reading should occur on a volunteer basis though, in my humble opinion, I don´t think there would be anything wrong with mentioning some of the stuff you set out and ask informally at a staff meeting if anyone´s had a chance to skim through any of the material. Naturally, people might look away at nothing in particular indicating, perhaps, that no, they haven´t read much lately. On the other hand, if you do create a reading room of some sort (remember, it could be some magazines scattered on a table or some books on a shelf in the supply room) let people know that you´d like them to do some reading. If people balk at having to seek out something rather than having it come to them through e-mail or the in-boxes that sit on top of their desks, remind them that they have control over their careers in terms of what they´re willing to learn and that it is their responsibility to initiate that control. People may tire of the phrase "self-starter," yet when it comes to employee development getting yourself from point A to point B and beyond will almost always happen more quickly if you´re willing to take the lead. As for those who might worry about the brown-nose factor, tell them you stopped paying attention to teachers pets a long time ago.