People like to learn. Learning stimulates thought and (research shows) actually generates brain cells.
Learning keeps us sharp.
Many companies schedule periodic “trainings” which are often looked upon with distain. That’s because most of these trainings are really designed to protect the company from liability rather to provide new skills to the employees. Examples are safety training, sexual harassment training, racial sensitivity training and “we have a new procedure” training. These are sometimes necessary and they do protect the company from liability.
But what about offering an optional one hour cooking class? Have you considered a gardening class? History class? Astronomy class? NASCAR class? How about a once per month “show and tell”? You’d be amazed how much energy can be generated by this type of “training” if management doesn’t try to make “a lesson” out of it.
You have a great depth of knowledge about a wide range of subjects within your organization. You might question the benefits of having a monthly “show and tell”.
Thirty years ago I worked at a very rigid organization. People worked in “cliques” and the atmosphere was fairly tense.  For some unexplained reason, the maintenance guy who generally kept to himself, was asked to speak at the weekly staff meeting.
We managers figured he was retiring and the boss was giving him a minute of recognition. He brought boxes and boxes of binders into the room. The boss simply said that Mr. Purdy had something to show us. Mr. Purdy wasn’t much of a talker and we braced ourselves for vacation stories or some other “we have to be polite now” time suck.
Mr. Purdy told us that he and the boss had a conversation recently and the subject of hobbies had come up. Mr. Purdy’s hobby was a little unusual. For 50 years he had been collecting and cataloging candy bar wrappers. The candy bar had been almost surgically removed from each wrapper. The wrappers were preserved in sheets of plastic—some protective sheets were added to the early stuff—and neatly labeled with the location and exact date of purchase.
Ok, so the guy is a nut. I looked at the first binder he passed out—it was about one hundred pages of “Pay Day” wrappers. There three or or four wrappers to the page. Both sides of the pages used. They all looked the same. Ok, the guy really IS a nut.
Then he explained that the binder I held represented a rather brief time period for that one candy bar. I think it was about four years of his fifty year collection for this one candy. He pointed out subtle changes in type style, paper, order of ingredients, changes of ingredients and changes of size. He could even show regional differences for the same product during a given time frame. Wow. That’s detail. He told us that he had hundreds of binders at home. The collection was one of the most fascinating things I have ever seen.
There was no point. The boss didn’t make a “life lesson” out of it. But we all liked Mr. Purdy and treated him with a different respect after that. The change was subtle but real.
Ask around. You’d be amazed at what people do in their spare time. It builds morale and cohesion to take a little time to let people show their “other side”. Try it.
Think you don’t have time for things like this? It’s a very cheap way to build morale and reduce turnover. It opens communication. It’s remarkable and it takes guts.
Shameless Promotion: Some very positive changes can result from having me spend a couple days at your business. If you have the guts, call me. (800) 462-6052 If I’m with a client I’ll call you back as soon as I can.
Chris Reich, Author of TeachU’s Business Talk Blog