How to Get Your People to Read

Research shows that independent reading of manuals, books, trade journals, and other professional literature remains the most fundamental, reliable and efficient way of keeping up-to-date professionally. Unfortunately, many of us are reluctant readers. As manager, you can use several strategies to promote systematic reading habits in your staff.

1. Change reading attitudes
Reading is essential for personal and professional development. It expands our interests, introduces new and challenging subjects, and exposes us to the latest ideas, trends and issues in our field. As manager, your main contribution will be to foster positive attitude in your staff towards reading for their own benefit and for the advancement of your organisation.

2. Set aside time for reading
The time devoted to reading is measure of its value to the employee and to the manager. The usual excuse provided by people for not doing more professional reading is that they simply “don’t have the time”. The way around this is to make sure that appropriate reading material – journals, books, manuals, policy documents, handbooks, references – is readily accessible and that time is set aside for reading it.

3. Be discriminating readers
If your staff can’t find the time to read sufficiently, the solution is to trim from their reading focus the unwanted and unnecessary reading matter that currently swamps the marketplace. This selection process can be accomplished as follows: –
a) Determine those areas of interest so important to the work task that they must, and can only, be explored in depth and thoughtfully.
b) Determine those developments and ideas that must be kept up with on broad and less intensive basis.
c) Compile and consider two lists of journals/books which cater for your specified interests in a) and b) above.
d) Decide what minimum combination of journals/books will best serve your needs in these two areas and focus on these only.

4. Establish staff library
Most employees, if left to their own initiative, are unlikely to purchase or subscribe personally to professional or trade literature. Set aside small budget to maintain and upgrade reading resource centre.

5. Experiment with variety of strategies
Be proactive in your approach to the fostering of active staff reading habits. Consider these ideas: –
* Locate reading materials centrally.
* Establish staff committee to select and purchase material for the library.
* Scan items of interest to particular staff and distribute these.
* Display details of useful items on staff bulletin boards.
* Set aside time at staff meetings to discuss useful articles and ideas.
* Delegate some of your own essential reading to staff members for summarising and reporting back.
* Acknowledge those staff members who initiate discussions on issues or topics of interest.

6. Target the young employee
Research reveals that young employees do not read the available literature as frequently as their older colleagues do. Make an effort to engender respect for literature.
7. Tell publishers of your needs
Many journals do not always give readers the information they seek. Often we must read so much to find anything of real value that we end up turning away from the literature. Tell the publishers what you want.

8. Encourage your staff to write
Encourage your staff members to get involved in writing for publications. An enthusiastic involvement in this type of activity not only advances an employee’s personal development and profile, but also raises the status of periodical literature in the eyes of the employee and colleagues.

9. Set the example yourself
Once upon time there was manager who had three basic rules for employees wishing to see him in his office. “If I’m on the phone,” he declared, “wait until you hear me put down the receiver, then come in. If I’m poring over paperwork, knock and enter. But if I’ve pulled out my bottom drawer, I’ve got my feet up, and I’m reading my latest trade journal, come back later!”

Management Memo
All professionals should be aware of the need for keeping up to date. We either progress or become obsolete. Growth is not easy; it takes work and discipline. Some people develop professionally by attending society meetings to learn the latest developments and to talk with able professionals. It is not practical, however, to attend all meetings of interest and there is not enough time to talk to all the capable top people in one’s fields of interests. Therefore, through the ages, people have relied on studying the written word as input to growing knowledge. People must read to grow.

From Just about Everything Manager Needs to Know, by Neil Flanagan & Jarvis Finger, Plum Press. Copy information to email:[email protected]; fax: (04) 528 9916

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