Learning cultures don’t just appear out of nowhere; they take time to cultivate. The habits of your employees have to be changed at the same time you are changing the attitudes of your managers and the policies of your company or unit.
Such wholesale change does pay off, however. According to a study by Bersin & Associates, companies with high-impact learning cultures tend to significantly outperform their peers in many ways:
- They are 32 percent more likely to be first to market with an innovative product or service.
- They have a 26 percent better track record for delivering quality products.
- They have 37 percent greater employee productivity.
- They have a 34 percent better response to customer needs.
- They are 58 percent more likely to have skills to meet future demand.
Growing a learning culture can be its own challenge. Much needs to be done that goes beyond purchasing a training package or laying down a new company policy. Here are 10 steps that experts have identified as critical for growing a high-impact learning culture:
- Make learning part of your overall strategy. Learning (and training) should not be kept in its own silo, but rather seen as continuous with talent management, succession planning, and development. Commit to making it a part of your organization’s overall strategy.
- Know what kind of learning culture you already have. As we argue in a recent white paper, there is no “one” learning culture. There are at least four different kinds of learning culture, and each one can be successful—if that learning culture is recognized and policies are set accordingly. So try to determine which kind of learning culture you have, which you would like to have, and what different accommodations need to be made for each.
- Promote learning as part of the leadership culture and development. Your managers and leaders need to take ownership of the learning culture. This not only means that they themselves must keep learning and improving, but they must instill the same attitude in others. Make dedication to learning part of your criteria for leadership, and include discussions of learning culture as part of development.
- Get started at the beginning with onboarding. Onboarding programs should encourage employees to take personal responsibility for learning and to demonstrate the organization’s commitment to development.
- Create incentives. Ultimately, your goal is to have everyone in the organization dedicated to continual learning and growth, and motivated to seek out opportunities. But until you reach that lofty goal, you might need to encourage employees to stay on track. Reward training completion and offer bonus incentives for employees who go beyond what is required. Make these incentives widely known before your training program starts.
- Make learning easily accessible. On-demand learning encourages employees to explore important topics even while it empowers them to solve problems and seek answers. Self-guided learning is also more likely to be retained later.
- Use blended learning to maximize resources and outcomes. Not every type of learning works for every person or situation. If you use one kind of training, mix in other types. For example, if most of your training is on-site, supplement those courses with an at-home eLearning option. If your instructional videos are long format (30 minutes or more), try shorter videos for quick refreshers.
- Get into the knowledge-sharing habit. Companies of every size and stripe struggle with “institutional knowledge”—that is, the collective knowledge of the organization that must be shared across individuals and through time. Find ways to make that sharing easier. For example, you can use a Learning Management System (LMS) that allows employees to share and comment on training modules as they use them.
- Teach leaders how to mentor. Mentoring is not a skill that comes naturally to most people. Teach your leaders, especially your front-line managers, how to coach employees effectively. In fact, your organization should teach mentoring as a skill, training for which is required for promotion.
- Evaluate outcomes, including performance based on learning. Measure everything! Track what training your employees take and what they successfully complete. Match that training with performance goals. Track progress toward those goals to see if training makes a difference. Refine as needed. Not only will this allow you to evaluate training methods and materials, it also send employees a clear message: “Leadership takes learning seriously. We want it to work. We will keep trying until it does.” That message will help plant the seed of a new learning culture in your organization.
If you would like help assessing your current learning culture or training methods, or would like to discover how eLearning can enhance a training program already in place, contact us! We'd love to hear from you!