The culture of learning is usually designed as a cyclical process, where every tier of the organisation can benefit and results are constantly reflected upon for improvement. Improving workplace learning in your organisation will have untold advantages, especially from the employees that need it the most. This can only work if your organisational culture has effectively embedded the essential skills throughout its learning processes, so that everyone at any time can reach them (or even better, so they’re reached and understood before they are even utilised).
Fostering a learning culture is the ultimate component. The key word here being 'adaptation'. Ever heard the mantra ‘change is the only constant?’ Well, in the super-fast paced modern business world, this is increasingly true. A learning culture will encourage adaptation to new technologies, competition, work environments, economic environments and your marketplace in general. The list is not exhaustive.
To put it simply, the Businessdictionary defined a learning organisation as one that acquires knowledge and innovates fast enough to survive and thrive in a rapidly changing environment. With 4 main components: (1) creating a culture that encourages and supports continuous employee learning, critical thinking and risk taking with new ideas. (2) Allowing mistakes and valuing employee contributions. (3) Learning from experience and experiment. (4) implement the knowledge throughout the organisation for incorporation into day-to-day activities.
So here are a couple of ideas to utilise if you’re attempting to create a learning culture:
Creating an open culture
Leaders need to work with their teams to achieve this, and it helps if it starts at the top, the very top. Excellent communication is the key for an open culture and an open culture is a prerequisite to a learning culture. The first real step to achieving either of these is to analyse where your organisational culture lies. Whether it’s hierarchical or clan driven, or already nicely adaptable you will be able to point out the areas you wish to improve and then influence the change you wish to enact. Most companies will be formed from a mixture of cultural definitions and won’t really fit neatly into one. The positive change stems from a lot of communication: up-down, down-up, side-to-side – it will all make a difference and the more the better, especially in the initial stages of development.
Learning opportunities should be available to every employee
Not just those in leadership roles or management positions. Training the basic employee on one topic even opens as a forum for discussing the entire business operation. This is where valuing employee contributions comes in, as a skills session may become the most profitable two-way street yet. Not only this, an increasingly skilled workforce is the best way to stay combat the competition.
Assess employees on multiple competencies
Educational attainment is simply not a qualifiable measure of total skill level in today’s labour pool (without diminishing it as a bad one either). Others need to be tested so improvements can be made. Socio-competencies in interpersonal communication, or group presentation. The ability to handle new technology and many others related to your specific business can have as much of an impact on performance as basic reading and writing skills. Without saying you can always find someone with serious book smarts and pair them with someone who has genuine street smarts, but a learning culture would be an environment where people bounce off each other. Collaboration over competition.
Confront failures and allow mistakes
It’s important to avoid finger pointing if things go bad, but you will still need to analyse the situation and take as much from it as possible. Frank and real discussions should take place with as many people involved as necessary, so all can benefit, but it’s necessary that there is no regard to employee levels or repercussions from said talks. Due to the all-powerful nature of chance, a good decision process can have a bad outcome and a poor decision process may produce an excellent outcome (bad luck meets dumb luck). Mistakes and failures are always perfect learning opportunities. This comes hand in hand with the mindset of learning and critical enquiry.
“Talent is the multiplier. The more energy and attention you invest in it, the greater the yield.” Marcus Buckingham