It’s that time of year again. All around the country at colleges and junior colleges, at high schools and junior high schools, graduation ceremonies are taking place.

Most commencement speakers will incorporate two basic themes into their addresses to the graduates of 1991. First, “education and learning should never end”. In actuality, graduation marks the beginning, the “commencement”, not the ending of education. And second, “what you have learned is not important as how you use what you have learned”. Your education is only as valuable as your willingness to apply what you have learned as you go forward in life.

While business education that takes place in schools, in seminars, and on the job isn’t celebrated with the pomp and ceremony of graduation from “academic” institutions, these same basic messages that are given at commencement exercises are applicable.

The first message, “education and learning should never end”, justifies the implementation of a continuing education program for all employees. Employee education doesn’t have to be cumbersome or costly. It’s not just for big businesses that have excess manpower that they can get along without for a few days.

If your’s is a small entrepreneurial business, develop some entrepreneurial solutions to meet the need for a continuing education program for yourself and your employees. Continuing education can range from a two week summer sabbatical at the Harvard Business School to an afternoon presentation by one of your customers on how they use your product in their business.

Continue employee education by sharing the knowledge that exists within your organization. Have different members of your staff prepare presentations on their special area of expertise to present to your other employees. The result will be increased understanding and mutual respect among the various employee groups. The knowledge gained will improve everyone’s job performance.

The second message, “what you have learned is not important as how you use what you have learned”, stresses the importance of applying our knowledge. The message is a variation of the old expression “success is 90% perspiration and 10% inspiration”.

In business the genius is found not in the idea, but rather in the implementation. Everyone knows how to manage, but few have the discipline and patience to do so on a daily basis. Application requires effort!

Training is not a panacea for all the problems within an organization. Hard work, co-operation, and good intentions are equally important. But, hard work without training and preparation is a prescription for frustration. While training is not the sole solution, it is a prerequisite for maximum performance.

In competitive business situations, the talents and resources of the competitors within an industry are often quite comparable. It maybe difficult to achieve and sustain a 2% advantage in operating costs, however, a 10% increase in employee effectiveness is usually obtainable. Working smarter, not longer or harder, is the key.

A group of middle managers from a variety of different industries recently completed a course in the fundamentals of management. Their objective in taking the course was a desire to increase their professional skills for career advancement and to expand their understanding of how businesses operate.

There were two reactions that were universally expressed by the participants. First, they felt they had acquired a foundation of knowledge that helped them to understand work related problems that were the source of previous frustration. Secondly, they said, ” I wish my boss would take this course. It sure would eliminate a lot of problems where I work.”

A third commencement message for managers comes from the responses of these management trainees. Continuing education is not just for them, it’s for us, all of us, even the boss!

Management is a profession that can and must be learned. Your skills for dealing with people and problems need to be refreshed and updated. In actuality, none of ever really graduate, but we do get to begin again, each and every day.