The benefits of a strong learning culture are many. It is a proven fact that organizations where employees take pain to gain more knowledge, stay competitive and become better over the time. Some organizations try to encourage learning by providing adequate training and learning infrastructure – Learning Material, Training Class Rooms, Trainers, Learning Management System, and pertinent content. Learning technology companies are also continually researching new ways of learning, innovative content, and so on. However, even the most innovative elearning solutions sometimes find little enthusiasm in learners, followed by low completion rates.
Even with the best learning infrastructure, innovative learning design and engaging content, if there is a marked lack of enthusiasm then the problem might lie in the culture of your organization. Learning organizations which effectively address the problem of “culture” reap the benefits of an organization-wide enthusiasm for perennial learning.
A report by Bersin reiterates that we live in a world of change and organizations must prepare for continuous innovation. Innovations not just new products or creativity but can actually be something basic yet result in tremendous business benefits. Inculcating an enterprise–wide learning culture might just be such an innovation! The report highlight’s one of the world’s bigwig – Google’s Learning Culture, bringing up key elements as well as the many benefits of adopting such a culture. The report reaffirms that organizations have to be proactive in creating avenues for learning and take positive steps towards sustaining learning. Some tactics that have worked for successful learning organizations:
The Organizational Culture Always Drips Down
The culture of learning has to be in the soul of the organization. This includes the members of the board, founders and the senior managers. An enterprise-wide learning culture can be developed only if the initiative is from the top rather than from the middle like L&D and HR Head. The top-down approach to effectively generate interest in learning should come within the ‘necessary’ tasks for all – be it the top managers or the new sales executive.
The efforts do not have to be time consuming and with the aid of technology, time utilization can be achieved. But business leaders should lead by examples – not only in generating a diligent focus on working but also in creating an eLearning culture as well. Business heads can spend some time every week on learning something new – be it on the mobile on the way to office, or on a tablet between meetings. They can share their experiences and encourage managers to do so as well. Soon the entire organization will make learning a part of work life – something that they enjoy and not something that is done only because it’s mandatory!
Space for learning
Work is the main focus for most employees and organizations like to keep it that way. But it is also true that high expectation of productivity, targets, and huge workload from employees often leave little space for them to sharpen their axe. If employees do not have official time for learning, they are very unlikely to initiate learning themselves. Organizations, especially managers must work out learning time within the schedule of their team. Since most corporate employees do well with a target in mind, managers can create learning targets for teams or individual learners. Attractive prizes can be announced for top learners to let the spirit of competition drive the learning initiative. The carrot-stick approach might sound like adopting a forced-learning strategy but might work for organizations that are serious about promoting a learning culture.
What’s in it for Learner?
Employees work with certain goals in mind – make money, retain the existing job and be employable in future. Thus they are always keen on making efforts that help them meet these goals. If organizations can link the learning to these goals, then they can successfully increase the learners’ interest in learning owing to the actual benefits they reap out of the learning process.
Organizations can weave learning into the learner deliverables or the Key Responsibility Areas (KRAs). Let the test scores at the end of an e-course or a new certificate attained reflect in the appraisal system to make sure that the efforts of the learner are recognized not only by the immediate superiors but higher up as well. When the outcome of learning affects actual gains – like a raise or a promotion, then the interest in learning will be truly genuine and sincere. Additionally, each certificate can be attached to some monetary incentives that the employees can enjoy as a prize for learning. Organizations spend considerable amounts building up infrastructure. It makes sense to let some money trickle to employees directly, increasing the impact of learning and making sure that the infrastructure is well utilized!
A Little fear Factor
While organizations need to shoulder the responsibilities of learning initiatives, employees too need to share this responsibility equally. There will be reluctant learners, who will lag in spite of the evident benefits of learning. Changing their attitude might be difficult and it is then up to the managers who work closely with them, to counsel them on maintaining good learning habits. Dwindling learning scores should raise flags and signal managers to talk to relevant employees on benefits of attaining appropriate knowledge as per their job profile. There may be certain penalties as well to not completing adequate learning targets that will generate some ’fear factor’ to keep motivating the employees. The penalties may include suspended rights to something that truly engages all learners – like social learning platforms within the organization. If a learner fails to complete designated courses on the LMS, he may be not allowed to contribute on his favorite discussion board that week. The chance to mingle with peers is highly coveted and the learner will be motivated to complete required courses – as well as make sure that he maintains them throughout.
Peer Pressure for Knowledge
We all learn best in a social environment and corporate learning should also provide the opportunity to learn with peers. Most learners value the admiration of their peers and put extra efforts for learning if that gets them the respect of their peers. In addition, management must put in place strategies that create peer pressure on employees who do not work hard to keep themselves competitive and knowledgeable.
An effective way to create peer pressure is to reward the employees who demonstrate high degree of knowledge appropriate to their job profile. The awards must be something that all learners aspire for- a cut above the ordinary to actually get their attention. All high performers should be rewarded publically – on the company LMS, mentioned in the company newsletter or even a congratulatory mail that goes to everyone in the company. The fact that a fellow employee is being rewarded so well for his efforts is the great push for even the most reluctant learner.
A strong and sound elearning culture is the strongest indicator of how ‘modern’ the organization is – for learning is certainly a part of the modern work culture. A learning culture does not arise from a one-off standalone course which the learner takes on a yearly basis. Inculcating a learning culture includes a wide variety of sustained programs, processes, and systems which encourage to learn new things, build new skills, recover from mistakes, and innovate. Developing a learning culture has long term business benefits and an organizations’ enthusiasm for learning is the first step towards success.
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