In 2006, NASA launched New Horizons, the first mission to Pluto. Recently after nine years, New Horizons started sending back amazing pictures that is allowing us to learn more about the remote, cold, dwarf planet. Why did NASA send the spacecraft to other planets? To discover more about an unknown part of our solar system, to explore space which is exciting and to enable people to learn new things. What can we learn from the NASA mission that will help us create a learning environment with in our companies? Skill gaps in employees are reflected in the bottom line. Ongoing learning and training allows organizations to venture into new, unexplored areas, which may improve profitability.
Companies benefit from creating a learning environment and culture, which prompts employees to learn new skills, competencies and technologies. Employees use new skills to be creative in problem solving, to think outside the box and to develop new product ideas and innovative solutions to critical business problems. For example, Jiffy Lube’s senior leadership collaborated with its training function to implement a pilot certification program in a region. Employees learned both product knowledge and good customer service skills. This allowed them to cross sell product. Jiffy Lube stores where the employees were certified had an average sale that is 9% higher than other stores. Typical other benefits of promoting a learning culture in an organization are:
- Increased efficiency, productivity and profit
- Direct impact on bottom line results
- An enhanced mindset and ability for employees to adapt to change
- A culture of knowledge inquiry and sharing
- Improved employee satisfaction and decreased turnover
- A sense of ownership and accountability
- Ease in succession/transition planning
To create a learning culture, which benefits your organization, here are key points to consider:
- Gain senior leadership support for a learning environment and make it a key priority for all employees
- Determine the business rationale and the ROI on the learning initiative or training program
- Establish detailed short and long term goals for learning that are aligned with the company’s business goals
- Formalize training and development plans for all employees within an organization so learning is ingrained in the company’s culture and is a key priority for talent management initiatives.
- Evaluate training and development initiatives on a regular basis and provide feedback. Are these programs in alignment with the company’s business objectives and propelling the organization forward in successfully accomplishing its vision and mission?
- Provide enough time, money and resources to fund critical training and learning programs and formalize knowledge and information sharing as a formal process.
Returning to the original question, “What Can We Learn from NASA’s New Horizons Venture to Pluto?” The most important conclusions are that the investment in a learning environment benefits companies by improving business results, accelerates the creation of new products, ensures outperformance of the competition, and promotes an engaged, well-trained workforce. Leaders can make informed decisions with confidence in the workforce’s ability to implement business objectives.