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Want to keep your business strong? Build a learning culture

“Learning culture” seems to be the go-to place for businesses today. It’s like the most hip, exclusive club that everyone wants to be a member of. If you get in, the competitive corporate world can huff and puff but your organization will not go down. It sounds awesome.

But what on Earth is it? For all its popularity, a clear and comprehensive definition is not yet in place. According to the Harvard Business Review “a learning organization is an organization skilled at creating, acquiring, and transferring knowledge, and at modifying its behavior to reflect new knowledge and insights.”

The same prestigious magazine writes that learning organizations are skilled at five main activities:

  • systematic problem solving,
  • experimentation with new approaches,
  • learning from their own experience and past history,
  • learning from the experiences and best practices of others, and
  • transferring knowledge quickly and efficiently throughout the organization.

Each is accompanied by a distinctive mind-set, tool kit, and pattern of behavior. Many companies practice these activities to some degree. But few are consistently successful because they rely largely on happenstance and isolated examples. By creating systems and processes that support these activities and integrate them into the fabric of daily operations, companies can manage their learning more effectively.

A good learning culture can throw business results through the roof

As statistics show roughly half of executives say their company is capable of retaining, updating, and sharing institutional knowledge, and 47% say their company has a culture of continuous learning. Only 41% of employees say their company offers them opportunities to expand their skill sets.

Learning is an ongoing process, especially in the business world where markets and customer demands change faster than ever before. Employees are also very different than they were a decade ago so if there is anything that can offer your business a good competitive edge, it is learning and development.

The first step is focusing on the people. They are an organization’s best assets and as such they should be provided with diverse and flexible opportunities to learn. Once this is achieved, all employees - regardless of experience or talent - are given the opportunity to excel at what they do. It is only obvious that the best performing companies are those that best know who their people are and how they prefer to learn.

People - the building bricks

I know it will sound as if I am repeating myself but it all starts with the people. In order to be able to attract and engage the best workers, companies must put a lot of thinking into how they recruit, train and develop their workforce.

Learning has to become the most important tool in their competitive arsenal. And this needs to be done in an environment that is constantly changing. Even the means of delivering training and ensuring development are evolving with incredible speed.

Transforming corporate training to meet current business challenges requires L&D professionals to go from service providers that deliver a product – training programs – to facilitators. Their role has to be guiding managers, team leaders and employees to continuously acquire the knowledge, skills, and competencies they need to reach corporate goals and develop their own careers.

As Dan Pontefract, of Canada’s TELUS Communications says,

Learning must become part of the ethos of your corporate culture. You should be thinking about how it can be reinforced every single day of the week.

Consistency and engagement – the glue holding it all together

So once the best people are hired and learning and development is at the core of your business, you might think you’re done. The good news is you are on a good path. The not so good is that a learning culture needs constant nurturing.

This means encouraging employees to ask questions and talk about their success stories and lessons learned. Ideas should be shared and encouraged. This will show employees that they are really regarded as valuable individuals, with their own learning needs, rather than generic resources useful only in reaching the desired results for the organization.

Setting up virtual classrooms will give all the opportunity to learn what they need and when they need it while at the same time being connected with everyone else in the company and having the possibility to ask, share and work together. Incorporating gamification features will ensure a pleasant experience, better information retention and eager return of the learners.

Keeping all interested and happy is key as your learning culture is as strong as the commitment of the learners.