Updated: May 19, 2022
2020 became a year that none of us will forget – it changed the way we work and live forever.
What distinguished companies that seized opportunities amid challenging times from those that succumbed to overwhelming circumstances? Accelerated learning.
Learning is a muscle that needs to be nurtured, flexed, strengthened, and built. It helps enable quick learning amongst staff, which improves adaptability to change, and builds resilience.
The barrier that often holds back learning for employees and organizations is what they know and the inertia to move out of their comfort zones.
Most of us spend more time in a performance mode, demonstrating "This is what I know and this is my expertise," rather than in a learning mode, asking, "What more can I learn to improve myself and deliver?" To combat this, one must learn to learn.
Here is where the organizations play a pivotal role by creating a learning culture.
Learning Culture is defined, as creating a culture where employees have access to tools for continuous learning, whether to acquire brand-new skills or expand their existing knowledge, with leadership that encourages and creates the need for constant learning, among team members.
So, how can business leaders accelerate learning and prepare their employees and companies for the future?
Cultivate a learning mindset across levels. Nimbleness in business is the need of the hour. Individuals, teams, and the company need to be encouraged to embrace risk, surprise, and innovation. The majority of learning occurs on the job by putting assumptions and new ideas to the test. However, for learning to persist, businesses must provide an open space for employees to learn from both their own and others failures and successes. Here processes and established structures, such as feedback loops, and cultural aspects like psychological safety come into play.
Encourage participation and communication. One way to achieve is this is by encouraging employees to create open-knowledge platforms to exchange information and discover new ways to grow. Technology, especially digital learning, has come to play a key role in expanding learning within an organization. It also helps gather data to scale up the learning initiatives. Digital learning, with its growing importance, is not a replacement for Human connections. Human connections via networks within functions & across functions need to be encouraged. These connections allow employees to learn from one another and increase psychological safety and create a sense of community, hence belonging.
Access to user-centric learning. Making learning opportunities widely available and personalised, encourages employees to gain new skills and makes learning hassle-free. Digital Technology can be used, to build personalized learning journeys that are accessible from anywhere at any time at the employee's convenience. It's crucial to remember that everyone learns differently, so experimenting with different approaches like virtual instructor-led training, on-demand and bite-sized or micro-learning may yield better results. Remember, people, learn only if engaged.
Constructive feedback: Constructive feedback assists employees to identify knowledge gaps to bridge for alignment with corporate objectives. A proper feedback mechanism may give a learning culture much-needed depth and dimension.
Create a purposeful learning culture by rewarding continual learning. Numerous ways are employed to recognise the ongoing learning, such as internal communications, gamified accomplishment boards, cash incentives etc. For a sustained learning culture, the scope of recognition will need expansion. HR professionals can get the ball rolling contribute to creating a long-term shift in how the organisation utilises learning in challenging times by ensuring that rewarding curiosity is not limited to praising and promoting those who demonstrate an effort to learn.
Hiring Right. Sustaining a learning culture is frequently viewed as a training and development challenge. While learning professionals hold the primary responsibility for enabling learning, hiring employees with qualities like receptivity to new experiences, tolerance for ambiguity, critical thinking, and inquisitiveness, will help organisations maintain a learning culture.
As organizations strive to become future-ready and prosper in a post-pandemic world, the learning professionals need to rise to the challenge. Building strategic competencies, skills, and learning mindsets will be beneficial now and over the long term. Embracing this
imperative will hasten staff development, continual improvement, and innovation at scale. A recent report published by Bersin* depicted that companies that effectively foster the drive of their workforce to learn are at least 30% more likely to be market leaders in their sectors over time. That is not all. Traditional disruptors within the business ecosystem, such as, the rising importance of technology and altering employee preferences, have demonstrated that they are not the only variables that throw business strategies out the window.
Investing in the development and preservation of a learning culture allows businesses to future-proof their objectives and prepare for times of uncertainty.