Managing Staff

By ACS Distance Education on March 19, 2019 in Careers, Education, Jobs Success & Psychology | comments

How to Have Better Staff – Select, Motivate, Educate

by John Mason  

When a staff member knows more about their industry; they will see more ways of undertaking jobs. Unless they have a good attitude though,  knowledge might not get used.
In today’s fast changing world, knowledge and attitudes change faster than ever.
If you want the best staff, you need to pay attention to staff selection, motivation and education.

Ignore at Your Peril

What happens if you ignore these things?  You risk:

  • employing new staff with a bad attitude
  • degrading the attitude of existing staff
  • mistakes (e.g. not identifying opportunities to do better)
  • losing any competitive edge 

Understand Learning Better

Learning changes a person, and in doing so makes them a more effective worker. Getting a qualification is not necessarily learning – sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t.  Having a qualification means you have passed an exam. Like a drivers test, that means you drove a car once, well enough to be assessed as competent, but we all see plenty of incompetent drivers who have their licence.

Proper learning isn’t just about knowing facts. Anyone can open a book, read how to grow a species, and tell you what they read. A properly educated horticulturist can look at a plant species they have not seen before, and determine it’s plant family, then knowing that, deduce an appropriate way of growing it; given the resources available, and in the context at hand. To learn anything well takes time and reinforcement. 

If you encounter a piece of information, and understand it, it will enter your short-term memory. You may well recall that a few hours or even days later; but without reinforcement, it won’t stick in long term memory; and unless you encounter it in a variety of contexts, you may not see the full range of applications for that knowledge. It is perfectly feasible for people to do a course and be assessed before information evaporates from short term memory. Having qualifications achieved this way may look good; but they don’t make you a more effective worker.
To achieve proper, meaningful learning – for yourself, or your employees; you need to encounter what you study in different contexts, at different times, and embed your learning properly in long term memory.

To avoid ongoing learning for yourself, or your staff can risk business decline; particularly in a world where technological, economic and social change is so rapid.

Understand Attitudes

I read recently that employers are now using psychological profiling, more than qualifications, as an indicator of who to employ. This may not be the case in the horticulture industry, but it is in many industries. Psychological profiling can help you understand a person’s attitude and without a good attitude, work quality and quantity diminishes.

Motivation is Ongoing

It is costly and risky to find, employ and settle in new staff; and yet many businesses have high levels of  staff turnover. If you treat staff better, they work better. If you let staff abuse your generosity they may take advantage of you. Running any enterprise (public or private) means dealing with people and a basic understanding of human psychology is a key tool if you are to get the most from people – employees, but also colleagues and customers.

Where is Education Going?

I started my business - ACS Distance Education – 40 years ago when government funded horticultural education  much better, and horticultural certificates and diplomas took much longer to do and contained a lot more science and in particular plant identification than what is often the case today. After a 3 year full time diploma at Burnley, I had encountered so many things in so many different contexts, so many different ways. By repeating cutting propagation (for example) in both practice and theory, with lots of different plant types and species; I had a very wide perspective on how to propagate cuttings. When I have encountered plant species I didn’t study, I was able to make a pretty good guess at how to propagate them. When I encountered new techniques over the years, I had a point of reference – something to associate new ideas with and that has greatly helped me to remember any new encounters.

A good education at Burnley did not make me the best horticulturist at anything; but it vastly improved my capacity to adapt and make better decisions about anything new that came my way. I had the foundation. Education is and should be about getting the foundation and motivating the graduate to continually build on that foundation.

In today’s world, face to face courses are often too focused on assessment and qualifications, and too underfunded to provide the sort of learning we really need.  Distance or online education today has harnessed technology in ways that were not possible 30 years ago, providing an increasing diversity of ways to learn, and at a cost that traditional classroom education cannot compete with. 

Like it or not – things like video and interactive online experiences are making classrooms redundant. Fewer people are enrolling in TAFE’s and RTO classroom based courses and degrees in horticulture have been closed down by universities but enrolments in online learning is expanding. Text books on horticulture are not being revised and updated but ebooks and technical web content is being written and published instead. Professional development programs are emerging and B to B training courses are growing.


How ACS Distance Education has been adapting to these changes

We have always embraced change and attempted to constantly update how we help people learn, just as much as what we help them learn. For all 40+ staff at ACS, our primary goal is to facilitate better learning. To this end, we have undertaken all of the following new initiatives in recent years. (Ask us about any of them).

  • New LMS (Learning Management System) and updating 500+ courses (each 100 hrs)
  • Business Collaborations (Affiliates like Learning Cloud & Warwickshire College, AIH, Garden Centres of Aus, Diacos, Larkman Nurseries) 
  • Development of shorter 20hr automated micro-courses
  • Courses written to be globally relevant and revision is a constant, ongoing process
  • E book publishing to ensure reliable source of supplementary reading 
  • Video production unit
  • Interactive Career Mind Maps