No business has a crystal ball that they can use to predict the future or some gifted psychic people locked in the basement of their headquarters giving them instructions on what to do. You know what I mean, those “precogs” in the Tom Cruise movie, Minority Report.
If you have some, let me know. It will be our little secret. I don’t know how but some companies seem like they can do no wrong but that has never been the case for me.
Not being able to predict the future means that mistakes will be made. I’ve made many in my day, some I learned from, some I didn’t. But luckily, I learned from enough to realize that mistakes and learning are part of an active, innovative culture.
Managers, leaders, and employees are all a part of that culture. But as a member of a team, you know what’s happening better than anyone. So, what can you do with all the information you have? What can you do to help your company continue into the foreseeable future? One part of the answer, if not the main part, is the culture of learning in the organization.
Learning is everywhere. I learn everyday in my job and I think most other people do as well. We all have to learn somehow or our jobs become boring, or even worse, we don’t do them very well anymore.
So, as a member of a team with a strong learning culture, what can you do to help yourself and others learn more effectively? How can you help your company create a strong and better culture of learning? More importantly, how do you harness that learning power and help it propel you into the future? Again, those precogs. It’s just between you and me. There have to be answers somewhere!
The Importance of a Culture of Learning
At this point, you might be thinking, “Well if we are already learning and the business has a learning culture, why do I need to intervene?” While things might be working fine, in terms of learning and professional development, there is always a way to improve this part of your business culture.
You might be calculating the math in your head right now: how much money will this cost, how long will it take to implement, how many productive employee hours will I lose. The list could go on and on. There might be some reasons to have second thoughts, but before you do, just read on a bit about how all those investments will pay off in the future.
According to Jenny Dearborn, the chief learning officer at SAP, companies that invest in creating strong learning cultures are more productive, innovative, and profitable. They also attract more talent and retain them longer.
Let’s take the mobile phone market for example. There was a time when Nokia was on top of the world. They were the leader in mobile phones and you could find their products everywhere. And then they kind of disappeared. They same could be said of Blackberry as well. So what happened? Apple happened.
The same could be said about search engines. There aren’t many people who say they are going to ‘yahoo something’ or ‘bing it’, but there are many people who say they are going to ‘google it’. Google has a very strong hold on the search engine market. It went from only being a company into being a verb.
So, what do Google and Apple have in common? Many things perhaps, but one of the main things is innovation. And they continue to stay ahead of the curve by innovating their ways of doing things, through their cultures of learning. They accept that the world, technology, and consumers are changing. They look into how things are changing and support new knowledge about these changes. This helps them innovate new technologies and pass on knowledge to their employees.
Employees are the ones who create ideas, share knowledge, collaborate, and produce the next great product for the company. There are many reasons to make sure they have all the skills, knowledge, and support to do that. You can help drive and direct this learning process through your experience and knowledge of the current state of the culture of learning. Your managers, your coworkers, and your company will thank you.
The Benefits of a Culture of Learning
The former CEO of GE, Jack Welch, stated that continuous learning and applied knowledge are some of the best ways to create and sustain a competitive advantage.
- Employees create value by learning and transferring new knowledge
- Employees feel empowered to take on new tasks and challenges
- The company reacts to change faster and is more agile
- Employees become quick learners and are more flexible in their jobs and skills
- Employees can take new ideas and create solutions for them.
You engage and retain your employees
Creating more opportunities for learning increases employee engagement and retention. In a workplace, continuous learning, passion, drive, inspiration, and innovation are all tightly intertwined with continuous learning opportunities and a strong culture of learning. This means that:
- Your employees feel valued when you invest in them
- Employees will be more loyal to the company
- Employees will be more motivated because of your support, rewards, and recognition
- Engagement will increase when you create a relevant learning program
- You will attract top talent who want to learn and grow quickly through your culture of learning
- You will inspire a passion for learning that will create more drive and motivation.
You boost your productivity
If you are more of a numbers person, these should speak for themselves. Research by Bersin has drawn many conclusions about the positive relationship between learning and productivity.
- Employees at companies who value learning are 37% more productive
- They are 58% more likely to acquire skills that will help them manage changes in the future
- They have a 26% better record of innovative and high-quality services
- They are 32% more likely to create an innovative solution and market it successfully.
These statistics show that creating an active learning culture increases productivity through innovation, agility, and engagement. Share these facts and figures with the leaders of your company and see what they think. Ask your coworkers how they feel about the learning opportunities. If you’re invested in creating a learning culture, start building a case for a better learning environment.
Strategies for Creating a Culture of Learning
To help your company implement or strengthen its culture of learning, start with these steps:
- Make sure that leaders in the organization support learning, allocate resources for learning, and model continuous learning.
- Start by thinking of all your learning and training options. You could consider on-site trainings, blended learning, or an LMS like Teamfluent.
- Embrace change and agility as aspects of the work environment.
- Make sure to use learning technology when necessary.
- Create innovative courses for onboarding and compliance, but also make sure you have courses on a variety of subjects.
- Consider implementing micro-learning to help employees learn on the go and whenever they have time.
- Talk to managers about making it easier for employees to access information whenever they need it.
- Help set up a system where employees can learn every day.
- Ask for informal learning opportunities like interacting with coworkers or collaborating through social networks.
Looking to the Future
There are a few types of learning and skills that are essential in such a learning culture if you want your organization to thrive in the future. They are:
Even more so than today, people will need to learn how to collaborate. The future workers of Generation Z are predicted to have about 17 jobs across 5 different disciplines by the time they retire. These changes will be determined by changing demographics, later retirement age, more female participation in the workforce, and a greater demand to do more with less.
The pressures of the work environment will require people to collaborate and form strong working bonds. Forming these types of teams means that you will need to adopt a style of collaborative leadership, focusing on connection, creation, and collaboration. You’ll also need to rely less on technology to solve all of your company’s problems and rely more on the respect, honesty, and humility of people and teams. This style will not only improve the culture of learning but it will improve the effectiveness and productivity of teams as well.
Related to collaboration is the skill of empathy. Some people seem to come by this naturally, while others need more practice, but it is a vital aspect of the future. As machines continue to take a larger role in business, empathy will turn into a necessary skill. It will be one that machines will not master for some time, if ever. I don’t want to scare you with all the AI horror stories about how robots murder us all or enslave us.
Empathy or the ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes is the foundation of collaboration. It helps people listen to each other and understand various ideas from different perspectives. It also adds to the ability of people to form tight bonds and rely on each other with things get difficult. These traits are essential for learning new skills as a team and being able to adjust to all the changes that impact the business environment.
When looking to create an everlasting wealth of knowledge within the organization, look into how to make it run deep. Deep knowledge is the important knowledge that is based on experience that employees carry with them. It is unique to each employee and it is based on how they have developed as a professional. Good leaders know that they need to tap into this source of knowledge and help employees transfer it to new employees. They also know know how powerful it is so they link it with the strategies of the company.
Help employees utilize deep learning resources by encouraging them to share their knowledge with you and others, helping mentors pass on knowledge more efficiently through hands-on learning, and introduce reverse mentoring to help older employees learn skills from newer employees.
Preservation of knowledge should be a key part of any business strategy. You probably have many coworkers who have been in your company for a long time. They have important information about key contacts, relationships, company history, and skills that would be lost if they were to leave. It is essential to the growth of the organization to extract that insight and pass it on to newer employees so that it is not lost.
For many businesses and their employees, learning will take place most often outside of trainings. That may even be happening in your organization right now. Managers will need to become the leaders of learning. They will be the ones to drive continuous learning, professional development, communication, and collaboration. They will need to provide employees with the resources and technology to learn as they go. The old way of learning was to wait for a course and sign up for it. That way is quickly becoming a thing of the past.
With more advanced LMSs and more access to information, you need to make sure that every moment of the work day is an opportunity for learning. This means making sure that learning is available to every employee, right when they need it.
Not to sound like a downer, but the future is coming and it is not going to be easy for everyone. Again with the crazy AI? No. But still, I don’t need precogs to understand that some employees will be replaced by machines and/or algorithms, businesses will have to reinvent themselves, consumer behaviors will change, and the whole world order could flip when we least expect it.
As an entrepreneur, I am, of course, always terrified that one bad decision could make this another failed business experiment. One of the only ways to cope with this is to be ready. Agility and learning go hand in hand. The more you can learn and adapt, they better you will be able to help your company stay afloat. So, for the sake of your future, help convince everyone of the importance of learning and start learning yesterday.