Having a candidate who’s a fast learner is great, but does it always make them the highest performers in your business?
Over the years, there’s always been a feeling on a subconscious level that in order to succeed, you need to pick things up quickly.
However, to discard employees who are a little slower to pick up a process or a solution seems crazy.
To find an answer to this question, let’s explore further.
Does speed equal success?
Hiring an employee who is quick to pick up something new is widely regarded as a positive – there’s no debate there.
The problem is, this can lead to a “know-it-all” state of mind.
How often do you see a show off gloating about how great they are, only to be knocked down from their perch in dramatic style?
Fast learners can be guilty of cutting corners as well.
Without a challenge, they can easily start taking liberties and bend the rules to keep things interesting.
For instance, a fast-learning copywriter may grasp the principles of technical SEO quickly.
However, if they’re pressed for time, they could simply tick all of the SEO best practices without taking any time to finesse their copy.
Including abandoning the creative side of things or double-checking their work for spelling errors.
The point is, the speed in which someone learns something doesn’t always lead to success.
In fact, as an employer, it’s your job to manage these types of employees while catering for the slower ones.
The key to managing fast learners
Fast learners can make high performers when you take the right approach with them.
Sure, you’d like to share words of wisdom and guide them. But in some cases, a hands-off approach can actually work best.
If someone is keen to learn and develop their skills quickly, don’t try to hold them back.
A key fundamental to staff retention is to give them the content and training materials to constantly feed this appetite.
You see, fast learners have minds like sponges.
So, every challenge or new piece of material you put in front of them will give them something new to set their mind to.
The moment you stop doing this will be the moment they make mistakes and consider handing in their notice.
Their training doesn’t necessarily have to be related to their field of expertise.
If your employee has attained all of the qualifications required to be an IT support professional, it could be worth taking courses in customer service to help them with the way that they communicate with customers or clients.
If you’re on a tight budget, allowing your fast learners to listen to podcasts and watch YouTube videos on relevant topics is a viable option.
Look out for entrepreneurs running cheap online courses on LinkedIn too.
From around £5-20 your fast learners can pick up valuable knowledge and present it back to the wider team afterwards.
For some more inspiration, check out our previous blog: ‘4 of the Best Training Courses For 2019’.
The real signs of a “high-performer”
As an employer, you should never leave a learner behind – no matter how long they take.
Playing the long game makes sense, as you may uncover the true characteristics of a high-performer.
Work with them and be patient.
You have to understand that some employees will flourish as time goes on.
There are several ways to identify a real high-performer.
For starters, they’re generally smart people with an above-average IQ.
It’s not a case of how quickly they pick things up.
An employee who has the potential to be a high-performer will:
– seek out any opportunity to learn;
– be open-minded and willing to be coached;
– welcome feedback;
– see adversity as a learning experience;
– share ideas and successes with others.
A high-performer will also showcase certain competencies.
According to The Corporate Executive Board, all high-performing professionals will have 10 characteristics:
– The ability to prioritise
– Working well in teams
– Organisational awareness
– Effective problem-solving skills
– The ability to influence
– Effective decision making
– Learning agility
– Technical savvy
If you think you have an employee who possesses all of these characteristics, remember to nurture them in the right way.
So, if they’re a fast learner, keep feeding them with training and materials to develop.
Or if they need a bit more time to pick things up, lend a helping hand wherever possible and give them time to absorb.
Just remember, every employee learn things in different ways and at different speeds.
The key to spotting a high-performer isn’t based on how quickly they take things in, but is understanding who has the characteristics to want to develop and succeed.
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