Having a strong corporate culture is crucial for your organization’s success. If your employees do not buy into your company’s value system, they will soon leave you for more rewarding opportunities. And one essential value all organizations should share is a desire to move the company forward by investing in moving their people onward and upward.
Companies must encourage their employees to constantly learn to avoid stagnation. But learning doesn’t mean making employees sit through tedious and often minimally relevant training sessions. Instead, learning leverages your employees’ curiosity and desire for innovation in their position.
Below, we discuss some crucial steps businesses should take to make learning a key part of their culture.
The importance of a learning culture
Creating a learning culture in your organization benefits the organization and its employees. The many positive effects of having a learning culture include the following:
Learning leads to innovation
“Innovate or die” is an increasingly accepted mantra. Without continuous innovation, companies cannot effectively compete and lose relevance. Innovation helps keep the sales pipeline full of excited and engaged customers. One of the best ways to convey that excitement is by starting from within through innovating employees.
Employees who are motivated to learn are more creative and innovative. Giving employees attractive learning opportunities also creates a constantly reinforcing learning cycle. As Albert Einstein famously said, “The more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know.”
Learning increases productivity
Improving productivity is a common goal for all businesses. The more your employees can learn, the higher their overall productivity. Why? Because the more they learn, the more they can do in their current position. Keeping their jobs fresh keeps them motivated and engaged, which, in turn, incentivizes them to do more.
A learning culture also gives you more internal resources to address your talent needs. And in an era of substantial talent gaps (for example, in IT and cybersecurity) where the Great Resignation has reduced the available talent pool, businesses need alternate talent sources. One of the best examples of companies leveraging learning is the creation of pools of citizen coders/developers.
Learning improves morale and employee retention
Employees stuck doing the same thing repeatedly quickly lose interest in their jobs and depart for more rewarding opportunities. Continuous learning regenerates employee interest in their jobs, improving their morale and retention.
Learning also builds morale by helping employees improve their reputations, which also improves the organization’s reputation externally. Employees who see their stock increasing have higher self-confidence and a greater desire to see the company succeed.
Ingraining learning into your company’s culture
To build learning into your culture, you must be very purposeful in developing your learning program. The following suggestions will help you change learning from a mandatory chore to an ingrained part of your company’s DNA.
1. Start at the top
Leadership always sets the tone for the company-wide adoption of any program or cultural value. If leadership doesn’t enthusiastically support a cultural shift, there is no chance that the company as a whole will.
Learning is no exception. The C-suite must lead by example to successfully build a learning culture in your organization. Leaders must actively demonstrate their commitment by visibly learning themselves. And leaders must make themselves available as teachers, sharing the expertise that puts them in their positions.
2. Make learning accessible
One barrier to effective education is employees feel they don’t have legitimate opportunities to learn. Too often, mandatory training sessions are interrupted, creating unnecessary stress among employees who feel they need to focus on their daily tasks.
Fortunately, it is simple to make learning more accessible. Numerous on-demand e-learning platforms are available to companies, and it is easy for companies to build their e-learning programs. Allow your employees to learn at their own pace and on their schedules, and the success of your educational program will increase drastically.
Remember, however, that you must set some participation and completion goals, or your employees may feel too busy to step away from their everyday tasks. And you must also credit your employees for learning outside of business hours, so they do not feel like you are unfairly asking them to take on more daily hours.
3. Focus education on individual needs and skill sets
Nothing is less exciting than attending an uninteresting, minimally relevant training session just because everyone in the company must participate. After these sessions, employees have little belief or investment in the company’s educational efforts.
Personalization impacts every aspect of our lives today, and corporate learning should be no exception. Whether focusing on different learning styles (e.g., the VARK learning styles) or building programs to satisfy the particular interests of individual groups (e.g., citizen coders), personalized education ensures engagement.
4. Gamify your education efforts
Another way to personalize education is to gamify your learning platforms. As more and more millennials and post-millennials have entered the workforce, gamification has become one of the hottest ways to generate engagement and interest in learning. Just ask the 80 percent of US employees who endorse gamification in training.
5. Teach how to teach
The more effective internal training and mentoring you can offer, the better. And chances are your organization has many internal experts who could share their expertise with other employees. The only hurdle is that they aren’t terribly skilled at passing on their expertise. So you need to give them the necessary tools and training to make them effective teachers.
6. Create learning communities
As we all know, social media dominates our culture today. For all their perceived downsides, social networks can be highly effective in building strong communities around common interests.
You should leverage this fact by creating social-media-based learning communities within your organization. Learning communities allow knowledge sharing, provide built-in support networks and generate open discussion that reinforces and expands upon formal education.
7. Incentivize learning
Just as you provide other employee benefits like health and life insurance, you should offer learning as an employee benefit. And to do this, you should provide incentives for meeting learning goals. Incentives can take many forms, from group challenges to gain points that employees can exchange for prizes to company-wide recognition and employee bonuses.
Incentives reinforce the company’s commitment to learning. They also give your employees more reasons to invest in learning.
8. Request and follow feedback
You need to have ways to measure the success of your learning programs. One measure is employee satisfaction. You should constantly request feedback about ways to improve your efforts.
Asking is not enough, however. You must also make reasonable efforts to apply employee feedback. If your employees know you are doing what you can to make your programs the best they can be, they will be happier to participate.
Building a learning culture in your organization will help you stay one step ahead of the competition. You will create a more cohesive, innovative work environment, with everyone invested in driving the company’s success. And it is easier than you think to begin.