You’ve got a strong team with great experience and the right qualifications. Projects are moving along smoothly. The team is cohesive, happy and productive. Is it time to sit back and relax?

No, it’s not.

Now is the time to ensure you have a rewarding learning culture that positions your organisation to be the best it can be. That’s a culture hard-wired to continuously learn.

This expert article explores:

  • why a learning culture is essential
  • what a culture of learning is
  • practical ways to build a continuous learning culture.

Why is a learning culture essential?

Learning is key for organisations to survive and for individual employees to grow. Organisations don’t thrive and survive when they’re stale, out-of-date and behind-the-times. They don’t survive with employees who are stagnating and just plodding along.

As humans, we’re driven to keep learning. We need water, sun and fertiliser to grow. Learning cultures provide that. They engage employees, develop growth mindsets and stimulate higher performance for creativity and innovation.

What is a culture of learning?

Plain and simple, learning cultures enable management and employees to build new knowledge and skills every day. They value learning and encourage learning. They embrace it, invest in it and leverage it as a core organisational value.

Practical steps to building a learning culture

Create a learning strategy

Learning strategies don’t need to be long or complicated, but they should cover learning that:

  • leads to change in understanding (why things happen)
  • builds ability to act in different ways (for the better)
  • supports organisations to shift perspectives and convictions (through fresh insights).

Your learning strategy should cover both hard and soft skills. With information and communications technology, for example, this means training on new software applications, but also on human skills like leadership, communications and conflict resolution.

Your strategy should recognise that different staff learn in different ways. Why not involve staff in developing the strategy for buy-in?

Make learning accessible and easy

Effective learning strategies offer a mix of learning opportunities. They include longer training pathways (such as a series of courses or a university degree) and short bursts of learning (such as one-hour workshops). They invest in experts coming to the workplace to shine the learning spotlight on new skills as much as they do self-directed learning that employees can complete at their own pace.

Other tips:

  • Encourage staff to build in and schedule time for learning during their workday.
  • Open a library of reading material (books and magazines staff can borrow, online resources they can tap into and lists of great Podcasts they can listen to).
  • Motivate staff to learn through free avenues such as LinkedIn.

Celebrate and reward learning

A key component of a learning culture is rewarding growth and improvement. It’s therefore important to recognise employees and celebrate their learning efforts. This doesn’t need to be major or expensive. It can be as straightforward as openly thanking an employee at a weekly meeting for learning a software program that saves time and money.

Also share what you’ve learned as a leader. And give employees opportunities to share something they’ve learned with one another.

Lead by example

Leading by example is one great way to build a culture of continual learning. Look at your personal continual learning plan or create one. Talk to employees about your dedication and reinforce a learning culture that way. Discuss your learning goals, completed training you’ve found valuable and future training you’ve identified. Also learn by encouraging staff to give you feedback on how you can improve.

Make learning part of your recruitment processes

High-performing learning cultures weave learning into their recruitment, understanding that hiring employees already motivated to absorb new information, be trained on new ways of doing things, and willing to think and act in new ways, is invaluable. When recruiting, ask prospective employees what they think of learning, what they’ve recently learned and if they have any learning plans. This will help you select talent that is intrinsically hungry to build knowledge and skills, instead of those you need to convince to learn.

Create learning and development plans for all employees

Learning and development plans shouldn’t be forced on employees. Instead, they need employee input for buy in. This means developing plans which are more than lists of courses that get ticked off when completed. Uncover what motivates employees to never stop learning and consider this when developing learning and development plans.

This is especially important given it’s much more economical to promote or change paths within your organisation than it is to lose staff and cover the expensive costs of replacing them.

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