"Laptop and notepad" by Nick Morrison on Unsplash

Like most at Capital One, my team is currently busy with talent management activities. Rather than being a backward-looking review of work previous done, talent management is forward looking. When done correctly, it produces honest conversations about each’s professional ambitions. Those ambitions, subsequently, are then deconstructed into the repeatable systems necessary to produce accumulating wins.

A significant component of any talent management plan is continuous learning. That learning could be:

  • Online coursework
  • Grokking Books
  • Professional Organization Participation
  • Experimenting with new technologies and techniques

While there’s no shortage of resources, what is in short supply is time to make it happen. A challenge, for all too many managers, is supporting ongoing learning goals not just in lip service, but with meaningful scheduling. It’s great to say you’re investing in team development. It is another thing to foist the raised expectations on an employee’s outside-of-work time.

With that in mind, I instituted a new, dedicated “continuous learning’ plan with my team. Every other Friday is reserved for team members to focus on their learning objectives. (I created two cohorts, each of which is staggered with each other’s Fridays so that there’s still a subset engaged with our stakeholder communities.)

Members track their progress via a card in our Trello system stating how their work:

  • Contributes to the company’s mission
  • Progresses them toward their talent management objective
  • Will be shared with a larger group

“Win sharing” is a critical component of continuous learning. Once a month, the team will get together to discuss what worked and what didn’t. I expect there to be surprises. There will be those pursuits that don’t pan out as expected. However, it remains a “win” if the team member not only discovers that new insight but shares it for the benefit of the larger group.

We’re all busy. I anticipate the biggest criticism of this proposal is whether the Center of Excellence can take 10% of our time and devote it to something other than processing team submissions for review. In my perspective, however, I don’t know how we can afford not to. Technology moves fast. Things that were prudent even only a year ago may be persnickety today. One of the core pillars of the CoE activity is to define healthy ecosystems. Understanding the technology landscape to guide others across it requires a continuous investment in ourselves.

Rather than being a tax on our time, I view this as a calculated investment our talent growth, relevance, and retention. In setting this continuous learning plan, we’ve also created a forcing function. We create the habit by reserving the space and observing the ritual. If that means we need to be more efficient in our other work to meet current expectations, then so be it.

Finally, this is subject to change. We may try this for a few months and, with some initial learning, reformat our whole approach. Much like the individual experiments, using the experience to inform refinement our approach is a win. The only way we lose is if we never bother to try.