Convinced of the benefits of lifelong learning and keen to promote it at work? Here’s how!
Perhaps you’ve heard of lifelong learning and found out what lifelong learning means, and you’ve realised how lifelong learning can help your career development. Now, you’re wondering how you can encourage learning at work. Not to worry - many others have succeeded in instilling a learning culture at the workplace and are happy to share what has worked for them.
We spoke to a number of human resources and people managers and here are their top tips to promote learning at work.
1. Embed learning into your company’s strategic objectives
One of the first things your company should do to encourage learning at work is to include learning as part of your organisation’s strategic objectives. This will ensure that the decisions made at all levels of the company will support the learning objectives of your firm.
Studies suggest that it is worth taking the time and effort to make learning a key part of your organisational objectives. Recent research shows that organisations with a high-impact learning culture (HILC) are 58% more likely to meet changing marketplace needs and have 37% higher employee productivity. Emerald Works predicts that organisations with HILCs are 10 times more likely to have sustainable impact on the four critical levers of business: growth, transformation, productivity, and profitability.
“If you want learning to drive employee engagement and support productivity growth, you need to make sure this is communicated and accepted as a core strategic initiative,” says Rolf Bax, Chief Human Resources Officer at Resume.io. “Make it widely known which skills and learning are necessary to support your organisation's mission and then link learning to these goals.”
You need to prioritise and evangelise learning, as Alan LaFrance, VP of Growth at PCSgrades puts it: “You have to prioritise it. A learning culture is more than a line on a poster or slide deck, it’s something that you evangelise.”
2. Tie learning to career growth and mobility
In our survey on how COVID-19 has affected learning, 37% of respondents say the reason they are more likely to learn something new is to make themselves more valuable to their employers. This tallies with the survey by Future Learn, where a significant 40% of UK respondents say they’re likely to take an online course within the next 5 years in order to grow their skill set and get ahead in their career.
It is clear that in response to challenges at the workplace - from the economic devastation caused by COVID-19 to the changes wrought by automation and technological innovation - many have put their faith in lifelong learning to enhance their career prospects.
You would imagine that tying career growth to learning should then be a straightforward task. However, according to LinkedIn’s 2021 Workplace Learning Report, only 40% of learners say their managers are challenging them to learn a new skill.
How then can you help your team grow their careers through learning? We offer several tips in our Preparing Your Team for Internal Mobility article including:
- Incorporate a learning plan into your team members’ career goals, and
- Coaching and mentoring
Markus Albert, Managing Director of EatFirst recommends connecting your people with mentors. “People often need the guidance and encouragement of veterans within the organisation in order to want to adopt a philosophy of life-long learning,” says Albert. “By putting employees in touch with their more experienced colleagues or other respected people throughout the company, they get to discuss their ambitions with people who have better insight into what it will take to achieve that growth, including the kinds of learning and professional development that will be required.”
3. Recruit subject matter experts (SMEs) to your learning strategy
There could be an untapped well of knowledge amongst your employees that could be shared with others in the organisation. While there are advantages to bringing in external experts to train your employees, there are also certain benefits in empowering internal staff to be subject matter experts.
Your staff - with their inside knowledge of the organisation, people and processes - could tailor the learning materials for the most impact. A report by Aberdeen Group highlights that companies engaging a content SME partner were 73% more likely to see a greater alignment of performance improvements with greater achievement of management goals and objectives.
“Your organisation undoubtedly has subject matter experts and they may not necessarily be your senior leadership. If you want to leverage your human capital for learning and development, you need to find out who these people are and recruit them into your continuous learning strategy,” Bax observes. “Have them spearhead knowledge-sharing programs throughout the organisation and compensate them for their time, effort and expertise.”
4. Make learning easily accessible
A number of managers we spoke to recommended making learning as accessible as possible to all employees. Here are some of their ideas on how to do that.
Dusan Stanar, Founder & CEO of VSS Monitoring, suggests creating a resource library. “You can compile a list of resources and store them in your learning management system (LMS) for your employees to access at their convenience,” Stanar says. “This central repository will contain any documents you believe would be beneficial to your learners but are not needed (at that point). They can log into your LMS at any time, browse, and select a text, video, or slideshow on a subject they wish to learn about.”
Meanwhile, Tony Kelly, CEO at CameraGroove, recommends experimenting with various methods of instruction. Kelly says, “The planet is your oyster when it comes to integrating and promoting learning in your company. There are a plethora of methods for educating workers that are only waiting for you to play with. There are several options for less formal learning, including one-on-one instruction, community problem solving, and so on.”
Allocating time for learning is also an important consideration when building a learning culture at work that is accessible to everyone. Some people may have personal responsibilities that prevent them from learning outside of working hours. Others may have different time management styles.
Teresha Aird, Managing Director of Offices.net, thinks that employers should allocate time each week to learning and personal development. Aird says, “It's vital that you reassure employees that this time is fully endorsed by the company and that learning is considered a vital aspect of the job. Employees shouldn't feel as if they need to dedicate their own time away from the office to learning new things.”
TJ Hoffman, the COO of Sibme, has a slightly different take - he believes that we should make time for learning, but don't schedule it. “We believe that the best time to learn is when it's convenient. Rarely is that time synchronous for everyone.That's why we believe that deadlines are better than meetings,” Hoffman says. “Asking people to achieve some learning goal by a certain date, but then giving them asynchronous ways to connect with others and learn in the flow of work will always result in deeper learning than gathering everyone together for a workshop.”
5. Make learning enjoyable
An effective way to encourage people to take up and persist with learning is to make it enjoyable.
Paul Oppong, Management Consultant, shares his ideas on how to make learning fun: “Learning does not have to be tedious and monotonous. If you make it enjoyable and interesting for your workers, they are far more likely to want to participate and learn. By awarding workers with points and badges, they are motivated to continue learning in a positive manner. Leaderboards also provide a pleasant competitive edge, since each employee can see who is participating in training.”
Meanwhile, Stanar believes we can make learning enjoyable by socialising learning. Stanar says, “Individuals like to learn in groups. They enjoy conversing about ideas, exchanging resources, and hearing from diverse viewpoints. Therefore, why not foster this inside your organisation? One of the most effective ways to accomplish this is through your LMS's forum functionality. Employees should create subjects, ask questions, and engage with one another to enhance the social aspect of the learning process.”
Research backs up Stanar’s opinion. Evidence for Learning says that a number of systematic reviews over 40 years have provided consistent evidence about the benefits of collaborative learning. Additionally, Evidence for Learning suggests that collaborative learning appears to work well for all ages.
Organisational culture and learning culture are notoriously difficult concepts to pin down. Nevertheless, by delving into the above steps shared by those who have led the way, you can begin to build a learning culture that will benefit both your organisation and your people!