Professional development opportunities are one of the most important tools for women entrepreneurs to take their business to the next level. From executive education to employee engagement, integrating learning at all levels of a business can be a challenge.
In this guest post, Tammy Cohen, Founder and Chief Visionary Officer at InfoMart, a WBENC-Certified WBE, breaks it down for us by sharing her learning philosophy and three simple ways she is integrating education into her company’s culture
Keeping pace with advances in technology requires a continuous hunger for education and a passion for professional development—not only for myself but for our entire organization. This is especially true as a technology company in ID and screening. I live and lead by the Japanese business philosophy kaizen, which means “continuous improvement” in all areas of life. I look for professional development at every turn during the day, and over the past 28 years, this style of leadership has resulted in InfoMart becoming one of the top 10 largest ID and screening companies in the industry.
My span of topics to keep abreast of within the background screening industry is expansive: PII, biometrics, data breaches, cybersecurity, cloud access, global data, and compliance changes both domestic and abroad—just to name a few. Additionally, as an entrepreneur, there is the additional knowledge required in finance, business development, and marketing – all functions of running a business.
Here are some of the ways in which InfoMart has woven education into the fabric of our company culture and kept professional development a continuous process in our organization:
- IM Growing – We have an employee-led committee, IM Growing, specifically charged with the professional growth of our employees. They design and implement training and development opportunities, including certifications, Lunch & Learns on services or soft skills, and the coordination of our annual, company-wide FCRA certification program. We bring in experts and vendors to lead training sessions on their services or products. We ask our speakers to not only explain their product but present their competitive differentiators, compliance needs, potential product issues, and solutions, as well as forecast the future of their industries, keeping our team ahead of emerging trends. All skills and training provided by IM Growing events go on to help our employees in their personal professional development, as well as adding overall value to our company’s expertise and aptitude.
- Top Down Distribution – My contacts and experience grant me access to multiple information sources. For example, I receive daily invites to free webinars on topics ranging from advancements in drug testing to biometrics, plus white papers on industry-specific topics and strong personal messages. I distribute email invitations widely, and from the top down I support and encourage employees to take the hour to listen in or read. This provides access to exclusive webinar content and a broad spectrum of industry knowledge. We also have Google alerts for clients, competitors, and industry trends divided throughout a large group of employees. Each day the assigned person reviews Google alerts, and if it is worthy info, it is shared.
- Build Our Own Resources – When one of our teams is doing a presentation—whether it be high-level or niche—we record the webinar. We then make the content available on our intranet portal as a resource for training on the specific subject matter for anyone in the company who is interested in learning more. These materials establish educational opportunities as well as lines of communication that might not have previously existed. We create new communities of individuals working in different sectors of the company learning together and thriving together. This also propagates the confidence in our employees to ask questions, either for their own benefit or for others.
Communicating information for professional development is key to everyone participating while avoiding an overload of information. A matrix of our subject matter experts is available to the entire company, which identifies the people responsible for sharing knowledge with the larger team. You will always have people that don’t “share their Legos.” However, with a team approach, they begin to look uninformed if they are not regularly sharing knowledge and educating the team. Kaizen promotes continual improvement by taking a top-down approach to emphasizing, sharing, and communicating. A desire for continuous learning develops without effort within a Kaizen company culture.