As schools open their doors to launch the new school year, many business owners are going back to “school” as well. That’s because, for many successful businesses, the learning never stops. For instance, at Houston-based digital marketing company Zizinya Web Solutions, CEO Shareef Defrawi and his employees frequently undertake some type of learning activity, whether it’s reading educational books, watching webinars or participating in formal training classes.

“Our industry evolves faster than most,” Defrawi says. “Staying on top of things like Google’s algorithm updates and the latest social media platform requires a proactive, systematic approach to learning. In a matter of weeks a new technology can take our field by storm.”

“If we’re going to stay relevant, we have to be able to understand what’s out there, determine if it can help us deliver better and, if so, implement a process to harness it and make sure everyone understands and sticks to it,” he says.

Regardless of the industry, there are likely new skills and information that can help business owners and their employees perform better and boost results. To keep your staff learning, and to build a better business, follow these back-to-school best practices.

Assess your industry.

If you’ve been doing the same things the same way for years, pause for a moment and take stock. Chances are, your industry has changed, even if you haven’t. Technology has changed almost every industry.

For instance, Lucy Siegel, president and CEO of Bridge Global Strategies in New York, transformed her traditional public relations company into an integrated marketing communications agency to provide new services in the shift to digital communications. “We have to keep up training because there are new software programs popping up every day,” Siegel says. “We have to know first whether they’ll be useful; secondly, which is best for us; and finally, how to use them. The definition of PR has expanded and requires more diverse skills.”

We have to keep up training because there are new software programs popping up every day.

Take a hard look at how your operations compare with others in your industry. If your industry has recognized standards or credential programs, those may be good places to start learning. If there are no universally recognized certifications, do your best “to identify industry thought leaders and look to them for information,” Defrawi says.

Don’t overlook the basics.

While training programs or exciting new technologies may be sexy, there’s no substitute for a strong foundation in the basics. Zizinya started out focusing on industry-specific training in topics like search engine optimization, social media marketing, paid search and analytics, but “we quickly learned that without a solid foundation in the basics, execution was going to suffer,” Defrawi says. “So recently we’ve started training our people in productivity, writing skills, leadership and accountability.”

Make it regular.

Siegel schedules a webinar every week for her whole staff, using a subscription from an industry vendor, industry association resources, or YouTube. She asks her staff to select the webinars they’re most interested in for whole-group viewing, but employees can also view the webinars anytime on their own. Siegel and her senior staff also attend annual conferences sponsored by PR Boutiques International, an industry network where attendees learn from each other and outside experts.

Zizinya hosts weekly “lunch and learns,” in which the team gathers in the conference room and watches a webinar over pizza, Defrawi says. The staff also holds biweekly book club meetings. “We pick a relevant book, consume it with our favorite device – Kindle, Audible or old fashioned print – and meet as a group to discuss,” he says.

Experiment with variety.

Defrawi recommends using different kinds of media for training and skills development. To onboard new clients, Zizinya uses a selection of web articles, blog posts and self-paced online videos about its work. New employees are also asked to read three or four books. And ongoing learning incorporates online courses, webinars, books and other resources.

Rely on your network.

New trends, buzzwords and training modules are always appearing. To determine which ones are important for your company, investigate on your own, and turn to industry colleagues. “In the communications industry, we’re inundated with promotional information about [educational] programs,” Siegel says. “To find out if they’re any good, I email some peers, such as my fellow members of PR Boutiques International, and ask if they’ve tried them or know if they’re worth the time and money.”

The new school year isn’t just for kids. Catch the back-to-school spirit and find ways to incorporate learning into your business to boost your productivity and improve your bottom line.

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