Developing Employees Through Reading – Start a Book Club

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I am committed to participating in the professional development of my employees. At my company, I host Burton’s Book Club, a voluntary program where each quarter I select a book, and our employees form small groups to read and review it. We provide the books free of charge to participants. After the book is finished, we come together in a company-wide town hall-style event to share our thoughts and discuss the book’s relevance to the business we’re trying to build together.

I select books based on business topics that particularly interest me and themes that are relevant to current events in our business. I look for books that have the ability to spark conversations and spark diverse opinions, and I look for books that are hopefully fun to read. Past selections have included Steve Farber The radical leap and Jon R. Kaztenbach The Wisdom of Teams: Building a High-Performing Organization. We are currently reading Ken Blanchard’s book Fans Going Wild: A Revolutionary Approach to Customer Service—a subject close to my heart.

Our journal club offers every employee the opportunity to learn new concepts from people outside our company, but also provides the opportunity to learn from within. Every day we interact tactically with our colleagues, but rarely do we share ideas outside of the normal business context. Reading an interesting book helps stimulate conversations and allows us to see our colleagues in a different light.

We had incredible discussions. I’ve read some of these books cover to cover 8 or 9 times, but I’m amazed at the questions raised in our discussions. For one particular book, I received over 240 questions, many of which touched on a topic in the book that I hadn’t thought of before.

Here’s why I encourage my employees to join Burton’s Book Club:

  • This is an opportunity to meet and connect with other colleagues and share your perspective on a diverse set of topics.
  • It is a forum that allows an open exchange of ideas with colleagues. New conversations can be a catalyst to help create something great.
  • You can build up a personal collection of very interesting books, all at the expense of the company.
  • It will be great fun!

Recently, a colleague came forward to say that the chapter discussions provided a nice break from the “work madness”. She loved the opportunity to sit down and talk about a subject she loved with the people she worked with – that’s what it’s all about. These journal club meetings add value beyond learning new business concepts. Businesses can become myopic, often working in silos. If you don’t understand what co-workers in other departments are doing, you can start to devalue their value, which is when you start building walls. It takes a major change of pace, like a book club, to break down those walls.

People change, cultures change, markets change… but there are books that stand the test of time. When I’m trying to solve tough problems, I can pick up one of these books and discover a lost gem of a business idea.

I want to provide our employees with methods to foster their growth and development both inside and outside the company. Learning benefits our employees, our business and our customers. A journal club can be another method to further your team’s training and development. If you’re not interested in books, come up with another idea. I worked in a company where we had slide parties; everyone brought three or four of their favorite photos, we ordered pizzas and we talked about photography. The goal of time away from the cubicle is to spark stimulating conversations and give employees a way to engage with each other outside of their day-to-day roles. We can learn a lot from each other and opportunities like journal clubs really enrich an employee’s experience at your company.

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