10 Ways to Build a Culture of Continuous Learning

Organizations that commit to helping employees grow will see the value in their bottom line.

As talent development professionals, what is the two-word phrase we hear all the time, day after day, month after month, and year after year?

“Prove it.”

Organizations need proof that investing in talent development is going to help the business. Fortunately, research backs up the need for, and benefits of, learning programs. Bersin by Deloitte’s research, for example, shows three times greater profit growth over a four-year period in companies that are high-impact learning organizations (HILOs).

HILOs have learning programs that are efficient, effective, and aligned to the top priorities of the business. Executives recognize the importance of learning, according to Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends 2016 report, in which 84 percent responded that it’s an important or very important issue.

This is great news for employees and their organizations. But before you jump in, you need to know what your business needs from a learning program. A few questions need to be answered:

  • What are your expectations for the business? For employees?
  • How will your learning strategy improve individual performance?
  • Do you have the culture in place to support the learning strategy and enable individuals to build on their strengths?
  • What’s the connection between your learning strategy and where your business is going?

This isn’t a complete list, but answering these types of questions will help you identify what you need to measure to know if your learning program is getting the results you want and expect. Once you have a clear purpose and expectations, you can help shape a culture of continuous learning and development, https://nudecamshd.com ebony-cam. Here are 10 ways to accomplish that.

Make a plan

Your plan should include a mix of formal, informal, and on-the-job development opportunities. It’s easy to buy basic training courses to teach staff to use this software or that tool; it’s more meaningful for individuals and for your organization to provide learning opportunities and content that is specific to competencies they want to develop.

This approach presents information that can help employees advance to a higher level of thinking in their job and about your business.

Communicate the plan

If you want learning to be fully entrenched in your culture, share your intentions with staff. When you kick it off, encourage participation by giving managers and employees goals for learning. Come up with a challenge and incentives to get them started. People buy into programs more easily when they experience the benefits firsthand. And don’t forget to start new employees off on the right foot by incorporating learning opportunities in their onboarding activities.

Everyone needs to be on board with your learning program, but that can take time if your organization needs to make culture shifts to open up to learning. It’s not enough to say you want employees to learn. Embed it into your mission, vision, values, and competencies so that it’s front and center for everyone.

Provide resources and time

Accenture’s report on building the workforce for today’s digital demands (Liquid Workforce: Building the Workforce for Today’s Digital Demands) notes that for companies to keep up with the pace of business, disruption, and speed of innovation, the “liquid workforce” needs to be built into three areas: skills, projects, and the organization as a whole. So, what does this mean for employee development?

First and foremost, learning always can take place. It just looks different depending on the size of the budget. It doesn’t mean that learning can’t happen if the budget is small. It just forces more creativity and maybe more dependency on informal learning. If content is curated well, it can be just as powerful. So, whether you have a multimillion-dollar learning budget or just a few dollars (or no dollars), focus on creating a culture where employees have time to devote to learning.

Second, employees need to be able to access learning opportunities that stretch and motivate them to achieve their goals, whether they’re in a classroom, online, or developing new skills on the job. Connect employees to the content that will help them grow.

Third, employees need the right tools and equipment as they navigate their individual learning path. Perhaps it’s software to help track progress or use for work, subscriptions to content, or physical equipment that facilitates the application of learning.

Finally, a great way to show support for learning is to provide dedicated time during which employees can focus uninterrupted energy toward an activity that helps them develop. Even if it’s an hour a week or 15 minutes a day, that’s time your people can use to grow their skills and knowledge.

Improve coaching skills of frontline managers

Managers across your organization should be talking to their employees about their development on a regular basis. This gives managers a better understanding of what their employees want, the strengths they want to build on, and areas they want to improve. These conversations can include a discussion of short- and long-term goals, as well as how those goals fit into the big picture of the employee’s contribution to achieving organizational goals.

Regular check-ins with employees help them stay on track so they achieve goals and complete development activities on time and with the right outcomes. This also gives the employee and the manager frequent opportunities to shift priorities as needed.

Align learning and business objectives

Employees don’t want to be boxed in, but learning and development needs to make sense for their work and the company. Learning paths should be tied to development plans that are aligned with organizational goals so employees and the business get the most value out of the investment.

Providing valuable training opportunities sends the message to employees that the organization cares about their future. The right programs will help employees do their job better, which benefits them in their career and the organization in working toward its strategic outcomes.

Set employee goals

A joint research study by Brandon Hall Group and Halogen Software reported that more than two-thirds of high performers “use cascading goals to connect business and learning objectives, while only half of everyone else uses them.” When employees know what they’re doing and why, they’ll be more motivated and engaged in the process.

It’s equally important to have an action plan for how employees will use what they’ve learned in their day-to-day work. Before starting a development activity, managers should have an open discussion with the employee to outline the purpose and expected outcomes, and to create a preliminary plan for using what the employee learns.

This plan should be a list of activities—what employees will do as they are learning and once they have completed their learning activity. Once the learning activity is completed, follow up to see how it went, whether it met expectations, and to solidify the action plan. According to Aberdeen Group’s From Learning to Knowledge: Best-in-Class Methods for Enabling Employees to Propel the Business Forward, best-in-class companies are 73 percent more likely to ensure that managers have a post-training meeting with employees to talk about how to act on what they’ve learned. Another study, An Investigation of Training Activities and Transfer of Training in Organizations, found that 62 percent of learners applied learning on the job immediately, but only 44 percent still applied the learning at six months; that number dropped to 34 percent after a year.

Encourage innovation

One of the byproducts of continuous learning programs is solving problems through experimentation and innovation. Will every idea be revolutionary to your organization? No, but employees will enjoy having the freedom to explore what’s possible and to make mistakes within clearly defined parameters. The solutions that work can have a significant impact on your business by improving efficiency and increasing productivity.

Suggest external networking

Talking with individuals in similar roles outside of your organization allows for exploring challenges and opportunities through a different set of lenses. Employees may even garner some lessons learned that will help them get to a better result faster.

Support career development

If your organization supports internal talent mobility, then learning and development should complement those efforts to help employees find and create the right path for their career. This opens the door for employees to take advantage of learning opportunities that don’t necessarily fit their current role so they can prepare to move to a different role within the organization.

You can build motivation to learn and engage employees in the learning process by highlighting how they’ll benefit. Motivators can be different for every employee based on their aspirations and career path. Set your program up for success by showing employees at all levels that your program is comprehensive, relevant, and accessible.

Facilitate mentoring

Create an environment in which having a mentor is the norm, and individuals interested in mentoring and those interested in being mentored can connect with each other easily. Provide guidelines on expectations for the mentoring relationship and what it looks like if done well.

The company that learns together grows together

From the day we’re born, we learn skills and absorb information to help us move forward. Without continuous learning, it’s easy to stagnate. Of course, once you leave the structured days of school, it can be hard to find time to fit in learning around all the busyness of life and the busyness of getting things done.

Zig Ziglar once said, “The only thing worse than training an employee and losing them is to not train them and keep them.” In other words, if companies don’t make training a priority, how can they be sure the work being done is the best it can be?

They can’t. And that’s a risk, because falling behind on knowledge can quickly lead to falling behind in your industry.

Continuous learning benefits individuals by growing knowledge and skills so they don’t stagnate. The same can be said for organizations that foster a culture of learning. When employees get to look at their work through the lens of new information and ideas, it spurs new and creative ways to complete work or deliver a better product.

The feeling of accomplishment is invigorating to the individual, and the long-term impact to the company can include a range of benefits—including time savings, reduced costs, and most importantly, a more engaged, productive workforce.

Credit: Joanne Wells