Continue Your Education to See Continuous Improvement

Rex M. Gallaher

On my first day in my first job out of college, I discovered technical and business magazines in the bathroom stalls. My supervisor also informed me that I was expected to continue my education while at my desk by boning up on the latest engineering articles and tracking new products. I found out that all of the plant engineering department employees did this within an 8-hour day.

The company was sending a powerful message that learning was continuous and the company had a responsibility to the employees to help them grow. I found that employees were taking college courses in a variety of disciplines including business, art, history, religion and marketing. The company believed that any expansion of the employees’ horizons made a better person and, hence, a better employee.

Since that job years ago, I have carried that philosophy throughout my career. Life is the career, and work is only a portion of it. If we are to have balance in our life careers, all parts must grow if one part grows, but how does that carry over to the workplace?

Most companies encourage continuing education with courses that are job-related. Would a course in Eastern religion be job-related? Think about the diverse workforce. How about a course in pottery making?

I had an employee who was a workaholic and did not know how to relax nor did he have a hobby. He asked if the company would allow him time off each week to attend a pottery class and would I pay for it. The answer was yes, and he found that he had a talent for “throwing bowls.” He came to work a bit different — more relaxed and less stressed. He had a hobby. Fellow employees and clients found a different, worldlier person who began and quit the work day with them.

From the first exposure to magazines in the stall through a company-paid master’s degree and multitudes of growth experiences, I have come to believe that not only must our horizons be expanded, but we must focus on growing the individual, with the faith that out of that effort will come a different employee.

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