Doing More with Less: “Upskilling” My Team
Market research today happens in the context of information overload. Where people once had to search for information, now they are offered it constantly, and the biggest problems are around who and what to trust. This is the reality for consumers, but also for researchers, marketers, and their teams.
Learning is increasingly a team management issue. Leaders are flooded with opportunities for learning, which the pandemic has only increased – inboxes creak under the weight of virtual webinars, remote workshops, e-conferences and more. It is hard to know which ones are valuable, but in fact that is not the most serious issue managers face who want to “upskill” their teams.
The simple truth is that even the absolute best learning opportunities are liable to take more time than a team has. For many managers, attending a learning event with their team is little more than a fantasy. Yet the need to learn has not gone away. The world of market research services is continually changing, and teams need to learn, upskill, and adapt to stay effective. To take one example, as regulatory frameworks have changed, data protection and consumer privacy issues have gone from a minor item on the research agenda to an everyday issue. And regulatory issues are a lot less complicated than the unpredictable world of consumers, dealing with massive technological shifts at the same time as huge political and social upheaval.
It is a brutal dilemma. Learning is vital, but the time and resources to do it properly do not seem to be there. A manager needs and wants to learn, for themselves and for their team, but that cannot eat into the rest of their highly time-pressured life.
How can managers resolve this? Here are three leadership strategies we have found useful.
1. EMBRACE SELF-DIRECTED LEARNING
Right now, it is hard for a team to do anything together, let alone learn. Managers need to turn that weakness into a strength by letting team members manage and define their own learning, unleashing their curiosity and finding new things out for themselves, while always sharing it with the team. At a time of financial uncertainty, there is no room for most teams to grow, which means tapping the enthusiasm, interests, and capabilities within the team is already crucial.
2. FIND PARTNERS WITH A PASSION TO LEARN
The most effective way to balance learning with everyday work is to make sure learning is integrated with that work. That means coming to it with an “I’m in it to learn!” mindset – and here is where partners and vendors can play an important part.
If the vendor and buyer share that positive learning mindset, it will have two valuable outcomes. First, both partners will develop their research and project management skills together, without treating “learning” as something separate from the actual work. Second, that shared learning will be the foundation for a closer partnership in the future.
3. BUILD LEARNING INTO PROJECT MANAGEMENT
What is the next step after finding a partner with a positive learning attitude? Building that attitude into every project, by formally including learning within the project management system. As well as measuring and collecting outcomes, projects should capture any new methods learned, new skills mastered, and new process improvements discovered. In the past, upskilling has been part of team management. In a faster and more flexible business world, it must be part of project management too.
Finally, how teams learn is often as important as what they learn. The formats of learning in business are often deeply outdated. When people learn new cooking or DIY skills in their daily lives, it is often from TikTok tips, YouTube videos and life-hacks, not from webinars and e-books (however good those can be). We are not suggesting every team needs a TikTok account! But by paying attention to how effectively, concisely, and quickly these modern educators get their point across, leaders can spice up their own communications.