Organisations are seen to “learn” through their individual members – employees acquiring new information, or employees joining the organisation bringing with them new knowledge. The challenge for Learning and Development (L&D) teams is to therefore understand (a) how to efficiently capture the new knowledge being brought into the organisation, (b) how to foster a high impact learning culture and a healthy “appetite” for learning, and (c) how to better capture the transfer of knowledge between individuals (especially before they exit the business).
A high impact learning culture can be defined as the set of values, practices and processes embedded in an organisation that encourage employees to develop their knowledge and competence as benefits their work. High impact learning cultures are more likely to outperform competitors on being first to market, employee productivity, meeting customer needs, delivering quality products, meeting future demands, and being a market share leader. Employees positively contribute to a learning culture by:
- Being in a continual state of readiness for change (“What are my priorities?”)
- Being more mindful about the way work is done (“Am I performing this task in the most efficient, meaningful way possible?”)
- Encouraging collaborative, shared learning (“Who else would benefit from what I have learnt?”)
- Leveraging off both formal learning (Work manuals, e-learning modules) and informal learning (Video tutorials, peer learning)
Are you a leader or L&D professional who wants to embark on fostering a learning culture in your organisation? Ask yourself the following, to target some key improvement areas:
- Do you outline expectations on learning from onboarding? Outline from induction the organisations commitment to learning (and the tools and resources available) in addition to expectations around ongoing, self-driven learning. It is important to explain the different sources of learning (with 70% of learning being on the job, 20% being from others through mentoring and peers, and only 10% being structured formal training).
- Do you know what source your employees learn the most from? More and more employees are beginning to learn through informal learning. This is usually self-directed learning (e.g., googling to find an answer for a software troubleshooting problem, rather than actually reading a manual or requesting training from an in-house IT professional). The challenge is to therefore try and ensure that self-directed learning is appropriately focused. Ensure employee learning is related to their role and the organisation.
- Do you have the right environmental conditions? Employees will only be open with their information if they feel they can trust one another, and that there is a reciprocal positive exchange. It is important to foster a positive and constructive environment for shared learning.
- Do employees feel comfortable challenging the status quo? Providing a safe space for employees to challenge the status quo will encourage sharing of information. There may be a process of “unlearning” that has to actually occur within the organisation, such that employees begin to feel comfortable challenging and testing the validity of current “mental models” to build new, fresh perspectives.
- Is learning planned in your organisation? Have a talent management and people development capability plan, underpinned by clear learning pathways. When employees understand that through learning new skills, they will increase their opportunities for career advancement, there is a strong incentive for continual learning.
- How do you give feedback around development opportunities? As part of leadership development training, encourage leaders to take a “coaching approach” to managing performance and professional development. This can assist to embed positive attitudes towards learning and also prompts greater self-reflection.
- How do you manage your information? Consider the ways information is managed and shared in the organisation. What technology, systems and processes could allow employees to share training and materials and communicate more often about the things that matter, to assist the wider organisational community.
The learning and development opportunities available to employees is a critical factor for attraction, engagement and retention. Research shows employees are willingly dedicating a great deal of time both at work, and outside of work, to their own professional learning. Organisations can leverage off this naturally occurring process, through addressing some simple and cost-effective initiatives as noted above.
Kaitlan Laurie – Organisational Development Consultant