8 Ways to Create a Corporate Learning Culture

Learning Culture

“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.

Success Strategies for Global Expansion: Including Hot Markets in 2018

Global Expansion: I’ve seen too many companies go at it the hard way. They decide they’re going to expand globally and then try to go it alone. They don’t start by trying to find out what they don’t know. They don’t look at how other companies succeeded and failed. You can save yourself a lot of agony if you learn from the experience of others.

IKEA is an excellent example of a rocky start to expansion. When IKEA first entered the United States in 1986, people loved the design of the furniture but felt it was too tiny for American living spaces. IKEA’s (literally) one-size-fits-all approach, which works well throughout Europe, needed to be adapted in the US market, which wasn’t as easy as it might sound.

IKEA redesigned the furniture, but then it also had to reimagine the warehouses where the furniture would be stored and the retail spaces where it would be sold. Everything had to get bigger.

IKEA made a mistake many companies make: It thought that what worked in one country or culture would translate to another one easily.

Executives must start by asking and answering two vital questions as they form their expansion plans:

  1. What kinds of markets make sense for us?

What are the characteristics of markets where we’re more likely to be successful? Further in, I’ll give you a list of things to consider, but the fundamental question will stay the same. Analyze your company, with your strengths and weaknesses and experience. Consider your strategy. Then look for markets where you’re more likely to succeed.

  1. What’s a reasonable level of risk and reward for us?

Companies have different tolerances for risk. They have different expectations of reasonable Return On Investment (ROI). And remember that for most global expansions you should expect ROI to increase as you do businesses successfully in a new country.

Here are a few of the hottest markets to consider in 2018:

Malaysia

Singapore is still a booming market, but its less well-known neighbor, Malaysia, has been named the number one place to invest by US News Report. Real estate opportunities abound, and there is well-educated, multi-lingual, workforce. Additionally, the government is foreign investment-friendly creating incentives and eliminating barriers to doing business there.

The Czech Republic

$125 billion has been invested in the Czech Republic over the last 20 years. The government offers training and job-creation grants, and the workforce is young, dynamic, and multilingual. Many tech companies are expanding there, too.

Sub-Saharan Africa

If you’re looking for moon-shot growth potential — and have a huge appetite for risk — then an attractive area might be the countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa is abundantly rich in commodities such as oil, natural gas, copper, iron ore, and gold. Governments are becoming more stable. And, the area has the youngest workforce in the world.

More Traditional Markets

Many companies are still expanding to cities in what we consider traditional markets: Ireland, Denmark, and Canada. These are markets are “easy” in that they hold more available and modern infrastructure, and there are large, hungry talent pools.

And, of course, there is the United States, which is still the world’s largest economy. In my book, Market Entry in the US: Why European Companies Fail and How You Can Succeed, my co-author, Ralf Drews, and I connect the buying psychology driven by American beliefs and values with a company’s go-to-market strategy. Remember: The cultural values of a particular country and region have a profound impact on the business environment.

As you consider global expansion for your organization, bear in mind: The “hot” market of today won’t stay that way forever. You have to decide if the market is right for you. You should analyze several critical issues for every market you consider.

Take these actions first before expanding globally:

Do your due diligence and market research.

Use all the sources and all the tools at your disposal to learn as much as you can about yourself, your company, and the market you’re considering.

Travel to the location to which you’re expanding.

 Reading is not enough. Video helps but isn’t sufficient. You won’t get a real feel for the place you’re considering unless you go and spend some time. And, when you do go, don’t just talk to other businesspeople who are staying at your hotel. Get out and spend time with local people and listen to how they describe their country and its business climate.

Do something different.

I don’t know what that will be for you, but you will. Make it something beyond what we’ve talked about here. Come up with a way that is uniquely yours to learn more about the country where your company may expand. Only you can come up with something that fits your style, your organization’s corporate culture, and helps you understand this new country and its culture.

Have questions about planning global expansion for your company? Here are some additional ideas. Need more? Contact me.

A version of this post was first published on Inc.

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