This was my lunchbox when I was in the first grade. Well, not this EXACT lunchbox, but the one I faithfully carried to school each day looked exactly like this one. I used it to my pack my typical PB&J on Wonder Bread (cut into triangles!), carrot sticks and Twinkie (Rest in Peace, Hostess)…sometimes soup in the thermos when it was cold outside. This was lunch, circa 1980.
I loved that Strawberry Shortcake lunchbox. Rust spots and all.
My mom probably figured I needed a tetanus shot carrying that rusty thing around, so when it was school shopping time the next year, I got a new lunchbox that looked like this:
Yep, those are Care Bears. Holla!
I loved my Care Bears lunchbox too. But another metal lunchbox yielded the same rusty results. I’m sure that around this time, the lunch box people were realizing that there had to be a better way. Kids all over America were toting around rusty lunchboxes – expensive to manufacture, and quite frankly, they were disgusting. So by the third or fourth grade, my lunchbox looked like this:
Awww yeah. Shirt Tales, baby.
Enter the plastic lunchbox. The rust problem was eliminated, as were the squeaky hinges and the awful clanking sound when the thermos would roll around the empty box on the way home from school. Not to mention, from a business perspective (something that was entirely beyond my 8-year old comprehension) plastic was much more cost-effective to produce than their metal counterparts.
See where we’re going with this? The lunchbox has evolved over time. The lunchbox people couldn’t just rest on their laurels with the metal lunchbox. Did it get the job done? Sure. Was it a cooler product than the lame brown bag? Heck yeah. But was there a better, more efficient, cost-effective alternative? Absolutely.
L&D brethren, we need to manage our learning and development programs with the same mindset.
Maybe your training programs are solid. Maybe your smile sheets are consistently…well, smiley. That doesn’t mean you should leave well enough alone. You should regularly audit your programs and take inventory of your materials, resources and even instructors.
If you’re wondering why you should be doing this, here are three things to consider:
1. Business objectives change.
If your business or departmental goals and priorities have evolved throughout the year, then you should be aware of those goals. Partner with leadership and subject-matter experts to identify learning opportunities for employees. Be involved. If you don’t have a seat at the proverbial table, see that your boss does.
2. Job descriptions, tasks, and systems change.
Whether you are responsible for the learning function over a department or an organization, it is important to be mindful of what skills and knowledge your employees are responsible for knowing. COPC recommends annual refresher training, as long as duties have not changed; otherwise, training should occur whenever job responsibilities change. There are other theories and recommendations…but you know your business best. Stay close to processes and systems.
3. People, whether they are your trainers, employees, or SMEs, change.
As the human landscape of your organization evolves, your training program will be impacted as well. Managing the transition of legacy knowledge when veteran employees leave. Ramping up new employees during a peak-season hiring frenzy. Even the evolution of your own staff can be a factor…keep your instructors informed, prepared and perpetually developed.
I say this often: Change is inevitable. It’s going to happen. Businesses, at least the successful ones, don’t stay in one place. They are constantly striving to be the best. The most efficient. The most profitable. The most customer-centric. What is your business striving to become (or remain)? I’ll betcha my Strawberry Shortcake lunchbox that it isn’t “average” or “mediocre”. As learning professionals, we need to find our sweet spot in our organizations, where we provide value and contribute to whatever “The Best” means in our worlds.
And the lunchbox people? Well, look at lunchboxes today. My 11-year old has a lunchbox that is not metal, nor hard plastic. It’s a soft, insulated bag that zips. He can pack his PB&J, carrot sticks, Nutter Butters (his current fave), and a juice box that will stay cold until lunchtime. It’s lightweight. At the end of the day, he can easily shove it into his backpack. It’s a far superior product than even the coolest Gen X lunchbox from his old momma’s generation.
It’s just a lunchbox. But it’s still evolving, still changing, still getting better.
And so should we, don’t ya think?.
Your turn: Just for fun, I’d love to know what kind of lunchbox you carried to school when you were young! Was it Dukes of Hazzard? The Fonz? Smurfs? Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? ‘Fess up, kids.
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