“Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.”― Abigail Adams
Our world is changing, and so are the ways we learn–especially in the workplace. Where once the corporate mindset was all about providing employee training, an increasing number of companies today are working to establish a culture of learning.
“An organization with a learning culture encourages continuous learning and believes that systems influence each other,” writes Tala A. Nabong, for Training Industry. Since constant learning elevates an individual as a worker and as a person, it opens opportunities for the establishment to transform continuously for the better,” she states.
“Workers no longer need to make, fix, or sell things or provide basic services. However, they do have to be smarter, more agile, and more innovative than ever, writes Stephen Gill, for the Association for Talent Development (ATD.) “As automation and robotics improve, the demand for globalization increases, and our workplaces become more multigenerational and diverse, an organization’s competitive advantage will be in the application of its collective knowledge and expertise…”
Establishing a culture of learning takes time, dedication, and focus. It also takes buy-in from the C-Suite and middle management.
Here are eight powerful tactics you can use to start building a culture of learning within your company.
1. Advocate for a culture of learning to your leaders. Your management team knows that experienced, skilled talent is hard to find and challenging to retain. Today’s job candidates are searching for positions in companies that demonstrate an investment in learning. In fact, the single most common complaint for new hires is that they’re not learning fast enough. The most efficient way to up-level skills and create top talent is to provide learning programs.
2. Involve your marketing and communications departments. Relay powerful messages about learning programs and offers. Get key stakeholders to message the importance of learning across the organization. CEO of LinkedIn, Jeff Weiner, has been extremely effective in doing this and talks about “…the excitement that was felt company-wide as the vision quickly became more than a dream but part of an operational reality.”
3. Change the way your company talks about training. Language is powerful. Start to use words like learning, growing, or mentoring, so employees understand training and coaching as a gift, not something mandatory or a drag.
4. Mix up the tools you offer. Try different, fun, and engaging forms of learning like gamification, microlearning, and theater improv. Offer online videos and other on-demand resources so employees can access learning when it’s most convenient for them. The future of corporate learning will be on-demand, all the time, access.
5. Emphasize results. Measure the effects of learning programs. Use elevated NPS scores, evaluations on 360s, or stories about personal and professional change to prove the value of training and coaching. Promote these numbers and stories throughout the organization.
6. Instill a sense of competition. By consistently benchmarking against what other companies in your industry are doing, your executives will want to beat the competition. Apply for awards, become known for your learning platform.
7. Empower managers. Everyone knows its up to individual leaders to support flex time. But it might be important to create a company policy with “days off for learning.” Encourage the idea of putting out-of-office on for workshops and learning experiences. Make sure there are no adverse repercussions for taking the time to learn. We need critical thinking as a skill.
8. Make sure content is learner-centric. The more employees are involved in their own learning and training outcomes the more they’ll buy in to training and coaching, and even get excited about it.
I like to refer to my learning programs as “spa days” and tell participants that they can pamper themselves, shut out the world, relax, and enjoy being totally selfish in taking care of themselves and their own learning needs.
Use these eight tactics to establish your organization’s culture of learning. You’ll start to see evidence of increased productivity and profits–as well as higher levels of engagement and a decrease in employee turnover. Your company’s workforce will find it easier to adapt to change, exhibit a more positive mindset, and display more accountability at work.
Need help getting a culture of learning started in your firm? Contact me.
A version of this post published on Inc.com.