The rate of change seems to be increasing and with that, the need for updated skills and experiences that can be applied to real issues in the context of an organization. I believe organizations that emphasize a culture of learning have the advantage right now in business.
Your company culture serves as one of the strongest selling points to new employees. However, according to Gallup, only 20% of employees feel engaged at work. Engagement is important, and many employees believe that their learning and developing is an important pillar to engagement. Gallup also discovered that one of the most important factors in creating a high-performance workplace is instilling a high-development culture: “Organizations that have made a strategic investment in employee development, Gallup finds, report 11% greater profitability and are twice as likely to retain their employees.” Instilling a culture of learning in your company can help your employees feel more engaged and make them more satisfied in their jobs.
What is a culture of learning?
Creating a culture of learning involves giving your employees opportunities for growth and development that they can apply to real workplace challenges—and that relate to their growth and the organization’s growth. It includes providing resources that encourage employees to broaden their growth. Typically, I find organizations offer memberships to industry organizations, webinar registrations, certification or classes. However, real learning comes when employees can apply what they learned to real organizational challenges.
Cultivating a true learning culture gives you leverage.
A culture of learning creates engagement and encourages sharing of knowledge. In addition:
Increases overall productivity: According to research from 2015, a learning culture leads to staff who are more innovative and productive. When employees are encouraged to keep growing and developing their skills, they can effectively take what they have learned and apply it in their jobs and are more likely to share that information with others on their team.
Fosters an environment of continuous improvement: Cultivating a culture of learning encourages your employees to set career goals and meet them. Equally important, a learning culture also allows them to fail. If your employees learn to see failure as a learning experience instead of a situation in which they’ll be punished, they will likely learn to take more risks, which can help your company be more innovative.
Enhances company culture: Creating a culture of learning is one component to attracting and retaining talent. Over half of young workers entering the job market stated that learning new skills is important in their decision making. When you build this opportunity into your own company, it helps create a corporate culture that attracts bright employees who are eager to learn new skills.
Strengthens talent development: When your employees learn and apply skills to their working environment, they engage others and are open to learning new skills. With the rapid rate of change, most career paths are no longer linear or limited to one function. A culture of learning develops employees who can move laterally and to work cross-functionally, thus filling the succession pipeline.
Your company can better fill vacant positions within the organization, and you can match people to jobs that suit their skills and interests. If you’re not working within a culture of learning, your employees might not feel encouraged to explore these skills, and they could end up feeling disengaged.
How do you implement a learning culture into your business?
Just saying your company is committed to continuous learning isn’t enough. Employees need to know they will be supported when they develop their skills.
1. Promote continuous learning as a core value.
Values are best seen in people’s behaviors. Make learning a core value, and have leadership continuously communicate this and act on it. One example is by creating cross-functional groups to work on cross-functional issues. As I stated in my previous Forbes article, “collaborative learning can empower existing teams and cross-functional groups at all levels by increasing perspectives on issues and building trust.”
2. Zero in on organizational performance versus individual performance.
Most managers are familiar with individual performance reviews and goal setting. An organizational performance review works the same way, though it involves teams. Take time with your executive team to create organizational goals that involve an interdisciplinary approach to strategy setting. This creates a “line of site” for team members as they work on organizational goals.
When every organizational team member knows the overall company goals and how their teams contribute, they can create buy-in among employees. They can also develop educational goals for employees that best align with company goals.
3. Develop a coaching strategy that aligns with business goals.
Focusing on organizational performance helps you create individual goals and education strategies that align with your overall objectives. You and your leadership team can identify holes in implementing your business strategies and find talented people on your team who can fill them.
Then, create training plans to fill these gaps and improve your organization’s performance. Aligning coaching strategies, such as enterprisewide, intact team and 1-to-1 leadership coaching with your business goals can also make it easier for people across your company to connect and work together to achieve them.
How can you get started today?
Implementing a culture of learning creates an atmosphere where people are empowered to take risks. If your development strategies don’t work as planned, try again.
To effectively make the shift to a continuous learning culture, it’s important to get your executive team and your entire organization onboard. Involve your employees to create a culture of learning, and they will create experiences that focus on real organizational challenges, have high impact and develop skills that increase their abilities in their present role and competencies needed in higher roles, as well as create engagement.
Dr. Andrew Rahaman is the co-founder of bluSPARC™ a learning and development company with coaching at its core. Drawing on extensive experience in curriculum design for executive education, Andrew is a trusted advisor and coach in talent management, leader development, and executive coaching both domestically and internationally. He works with clients to develop leadership capacity, high-performance teams, and provides tools and processes that enable organizations to meet their strategic initiatives and maximize growth opportunities. Andrew holds a doctorate from The George Washington University and is a contributor to Forbes Business Council. Andrew can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.