Establishing a learning culture within your organization takes time and effort, but it can pay major dividends in the long run.
Creating a learning culture in your business can improve innovation, engagement and overall performance. According to a recent study from Deloitte Insights, 45 percent of executives feel that learning is an urgent priority. Further, they found that organizations' ability to keep up with employee demands for learning and growth have dropped by 5 percent.
HR leaders recognize the need for increased investment in learning. The Association for Talent Development reports that investments in learning have been on the rise for several years in a row. Here's a closer look at six strategies HR leaders can use to create a learning culture.
1. Address the Difference Between a Learning Culture and Training Events
HR leaders must differentiate between a learning culture and individual training events. While training is important, building a learning culture requires digging deeper and committing to a long-term strategy and the right mindset.
In her book "The Growth Mindset," Dr. Carol Dweck notes that growth occurs when individuals have a growth mindset rather than a fixed one. A growth mindset focuses on the idea that skills can be learned, rather than abilities being "fixed" based on innate abilities. For organizations, this means that single events can bring certain aspects of the goals into focus, but they're only part of a larger initiative to cultivate a growth mindset.
2. Create a Culture That Embraces Failure
When you create a culture that's open to failure during the learning process, you'll speed up the pace of learning. Learning from failure is an essential part of world-class organizations' growth.
Have leaders showcase their own failures and what they learned from them. Be open about choices the organization has made that didn't work out as planned, and explore how the business has grown and benefited. Share case studies from successful firms that view failure as part of their trajectory. During performance reviews and conversations with managers, ask employees to reflect on the ways they failed and what they learned from those experiences.
3. Make Time for Learning and Reward Participation
The Harvard Business Review notes that the average business offers employees just 24 minutes per week for formal learning. The pace of change in business has never been faster — from staying up on global events to learning new skills to keeping pace with emerging technologies. Encouraging employees to keep learning requires allocating time for it.
Be realistic about setting aside time for learning. Evaluate how you can set aside time on a monthly or quarterly basis. Consider incentivizing your team to dive in by making learning goals part of their annual objectives and revisiting those goals during their performance reviews.
4. Create Space for Employees to Explore Their Anxieties and Concerns
There are several ways to ensure your employees have a safe space to explore their anxieties about their roles and responsibilities in an effort to help them learn. One is to ensure that employees regularly have one-on-one time with their managers. Mentorship programs can also help employees forge relationships that encourage open discussion and exploration.
Knowledge sharing across teams and departments can help employees find creative solutions to their anxieties and concerns within the broader context of the organization. When employees are truly struggling, solutions such as career coaching or an employee assistance program that gives them access to therapy provide other avenues.
5. Engage the C-Suite and Management
Creating a culture of learning requires support from the top down. As HBR notes, "[L]eaders' behaviors — particularly what they routinely do — have a strong influence on the behavior and performance of their teams."
From embarking on formal learning journeys to simply being open about what didn't work and what they learned, your team will feel more open and willing to share their challenges when leadership demonstrates that it's safe to do so. Find formal champions who are willing to lead this effort. Invest in training that helps managers understand how to foster a learning culture on a day-to-day basis. Skip level meetings and town meeting open forums where these issues are discussed can also expand perspectives and help leadership guide the culture toward a more open direction.
6. Hire Lifelong Learners
Supporting a culture of learning often requires hiring people who love to keep learning and evolving. When interviewing candidates, explore how they stay current in their fields. Are they continuing to take classes, get advanced degrees, attend conferences and find other ways of learning? Naturally curious and inquisitive people will continue to contribute that energy and attitude to their daily workload. Take time to understand a candidate's long-term growth strategy.
Establishing a culture of learning requires a multi-layered approach, focusing on both management and employees and moving beyond training into a long-term strategy. For organizations that take the leap, it could pay dividends with a learning culture that supports innovation, growth and high-caliber performance.
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