Creating a continuous learning culture
What sets your business apart? Factors like having a strong unique selling point, slick branding and a targeted approach often come to mind. But it’s not enough. With the rapid advance of readily available artificial intelligent technology, to stay relevant and ahead, your people need to be able to prove that what makes them human, makes them invaluable. That they can not only stay on top of the trends, knowledge and skills needed to innovate and respond quickly to challenges, but that they can apply their years of experience and judgement accurately and without bias. The key to achieving this? A culture that champions continuous learning.
But what does continuous learning really mean?
The Corporate Executive Board (CEB) say that ‘a learning culture is an environment that fosters an open mindset, an independent quest for knowledge, and a shared commitment to learning that aligns with the organisation’s mission and goals’.¹ Simply put, it’s an ongoing process that encourages individuals to embed new skills, knowledge and innovation across the entire organisation.² It comes in many forms — from online courses to informal social learning, peer-to-peer sessions, mentorship, research projects and exploration.
Why is on-going learning so vital for your organisation’s success?
Once, we went to work to learn to do a particular job, now learning is the job. Deloitte’s Leading in Learning report shares that companies with a culture of continuous learning are 46% more likely to be the first in the market, experience 37% higher productivity, and boast an amazing 92% higher innovation rate.³ And that’s not all — creating a culture of continuous learning also makes your company a magnet for top talent. In fact, a huge 62% of tech employees said that more learning opportunities would significantly boost their motivation at work. So if you’re looking to attract and retain top talent, remember that 58% of professionals prioritise skills development when choosing a company to work for.⁴
Creating a culture of continuous learning not only attracts talent, but helps you keep it and is infinitely better than the constant cycle of hiring and training new team members. It’s a win-win all round.5 If you want to make invaluable employees feel valued, improve staff retention rates, and overall business success, making L&D front and centre is the way forward.
6 strategies to help your company embed continuous learning
Upskill from the top
A knowledge-hungry culture starts from the top. Training initiatives should be modelled by senior leadership and put in place by management. Given that they’re responsible for people’s performance and growth, and shape the whole team’s experience, people managers are your secret skill-building tool and key to driving employee learning. Research shows that personalised support, combined with online resources, is more effective in upskilling managers than traditional formal programs. Mentors are great for problem-solving sessions and peer-to-peer learning is an effective way for people to share knowledge/resources and support one another.
Dive into your data and find out how your managers currently make use of your existing resources. Think about what’s working and what’s not, and change it up to refresh your training materials. With better, self-driven, self-paced training, managers will engage in higher-quality career progression conversations with their direct reports, helping them support and guide their teams more effectively.⁶
Get people to stay connected by making the learning experience fun and sociable. Community-based learning is a more active approach which connects learners to co-workers, peers and experts, and inspires skill building and drives higher engagement. Embrace the smart social features
of digital platforms such as messaging and online groups to encourage questions and lively discussions during virtual instructor-led training.
Did you know that since the beginning of the pandemic, LinkedIn witnessed an incredible 1,100% surge in people joining Learning Groups, a 225% increase in courses shared with learners’ professional networks, and a remarkable 121% boost in course Q&A participation?!⁷ People are now fully onboard with online social gatherings, so why not reflect this in our learning culture, making it motivating, fun and sociable.
Mix it up
According to Accenture’s The Future of Work report, 83% of people believe that a hybrid work model is the ultimate sweet spot. So putting in place a culture of continuous learning means getting creative with your approach. It needs to work just as effectively from the office as well as from home. This means coming up with an interesting mix of learning formats that keep people engaged and interested.
It’s all about the experience. You could launch your programme with an interactive livestream workshop, maximising dialogue and connectivity between team members. Follow-up with more intensive eLearning modules that offer in-depth training before wrapping up with a motivating office-based learning day. By mixing up the content and delivery methods, you’ll keep people fully engaged and create equal learning opportunities, wherever they’re working.
Check out our previous article on blended learning for some inspiration.
Everyone has something to learn and something to teach. Get collaborative by creating a collective curriculum that empowers your people to contribute. You could host a skill swap session where everyone brings unique insights to the table and learns from each other.⁸ Or a peer-to-peer coaching ecosystem which is proven to drive higher success rates and boost confidence.⁹
Take inspiration from Google’s playbook — the Googler-to-Googler (g2g) program. Over 7,000+ Google employees are happy to dedicate their time to help their peers learn and grow. It’s a win-win situation where knowledge flows freely and the business builds a culture of continuous learning as well as a stronger, and more connected team.
In an information-heavy world, keep learning content clear and relevant. Make it easy for your employees to find, follow and focus on learning that reflects their interests. Take into account generational differences. Research shows that older learners typically want to focus on soft skills like communication and leadership whereas a younger Gen Z workforce lean more toward hard skills like business and tech basics.⁷
People learn better when it’s personalised and practical. So get to know your people’s learning needs. Host ideation sessions, send out surveys, talk to people. Dig deep and find out what they really want to learn. Crucially, people learn best when they have to learn. By knowing what team members want and staying on top of sector trends, you can build a future-proof learning culture that drives individual and collective success.¹⁰
Continuous learning can be fun. It’s about encouraging your employees to explore and experiment, and use their creativity to make a meaningful impact within your company. Change it up! Make experiments an everyday thing. Try different tools to boost the interactivity of virtual presentations or test camera-on versus camera-off meetings.
At Quadmark, we decided to shake up our team structure, breaking down larger teams into smaller and more focused groups. This was a good move, increasing efficiency and agility as well as giving us an opportunity to make the most of each team member’s expertise. As a global business with teams in three time zones, we’re used to experimenting with communication and efficiency. Keep track of your team’s experiments and the lessons they’re learning along the way. It’s good to remember that an important part of any experiment is learning from failures and accepting mistakes as stepping stones to success.
The ability to learn and adapt is what sets businesses apart. When a thirst for knowledge becomes part of your company’s DNA, adapting to new trends and navigating changing needs becomes second nature. Focus on your managers, develop creative learning programs that are social, blended, collaborative, relevant and experimental. Then you’ll have a team that’s skilled in the most important thing a business needs to thrive — the ability to learn.
To explore this topic further we recommend reading
² Tiffany St James | How to create a culture of continuous learning
³ Deloitte | Leading in learning
⁴ Talent LMS | Retaining tech employees in the era of The Great Resignation
⁵ LinkedIn | 2022 Workplace learning report
⁶ Quadmark | Top training tips for managers
⁷ LinkedIn | 2021 Workplace learning report
⁹ Springer Nature | Why does peer instruction benefit student learning?
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