The truth about every learning and development program is that it doesn't matter how much time, effort, and funds an organization puts behind it, it is only effective if the employees actually engage with it. The key to a successful learning and development program is one that moves the needle on addressing skills gaps and equipping employees with the skills to succeed in their roles and drive the organization forward. For this reason, it is imperative that employees are encouraged to own their learning and development.
In this blog post, we'll look at 6 things organizations can do to foster that drive for learning in their employees. You know the age old saying – you can lead a horse to water but you can’t force it to drink. While you certainly can’t force a horse to drink, there are some levers within an organization's control to help ensure they do!
Firstly, hire curious people. If learning is foundational to your organization, its culture, how it competes and succeeds, then baking curiosity into the ground level is critical. This starts at recruitment. Make curiosity a trait that you look for in candidates.
Natural curiosity is a powerful indicator of an employee's inclination towards continuous improvement and adaptability, making it an essential quality for thriving in an ever-evolving professional landscape.
Curiosity is the driving force behind a proactive approach to learning. Individuals with a curious mindset are naturally inclined to explore, question, and seek out new knowledge. This not only contributes to personal development but also enhances problem-solving skills, creativity, and innovation within the workplace.
During the hiring process, look for signs of curiosity in potential candidates. This can manifest in various ways, such as:
Incorporating curiosity as a hiring criterion contributes not only to individual growth but also to the overall vibrancy and adaptability of the organization. By actively seeking curious individuals and fostering their inquisitive nature, organizations can build a workforce that thrives on continuous learning, innovation, and sustained success.
Once you have a group of employees that are poised to learn, the next steps are about embedding learning into how work gets done.
One way to do this is the integration of ongoing feedback loops into the flow of work. This approach recognizes that development is a shared effort involving everyone in the organization, at all levels. By fostering a culture of continuous feedback, employees receive real-time information about their performance, enabling them to adjust their focus and development strategies accordingly.
Creating an environment where feedback is both given and received encourages a collaborative and supportive workplace culture. It's not limited to top-down evaluations; instead, it involves peers, managers, and even subordinates providing insights based on their unique perspectives. This inclusive approach ensures that development is not a solitary endeavor but a shared effort, benefiting from the diverse insights and experiences present throughout the organization.
Integrating ongoing feedback loops means that employees receive information about their performance in real-time. This immediacy allows for swift adjustments, ensuring that learning efforts are directed towards the most relevant and impactful areas. Instead of waiting for annual reviews, employees can continuously refine their skills and address challenges as they arise, fostering a proactive approach to professional development.
Encouraging feedback at all levels of the organization dismantles traditional hierarchies and promotes a culture of open communication. When leaders actively participate in providing constructive feedback, it sets a precedent for the entire organization. This not only strengthens the feedback culture but also reinforces the idea that everyone, regardless of their position, plays a vital role in each other's development.
By integrating ongoing feedback into the flow of work, employees receive a constant stream of information about their strengths, areas for improvement, and the impact of their contributions. This continuous dialogue provides employees with insights into how their skills align with organizational goals, enabling them to make informed decisions about their development paths.
Organizations can actively promote ongoing feedback by creating a feedback-friendly environment. This involves training employees and managers on providing constructive feedback, emphasizing its importance, and incorporating feedback discussions into regular team meetings. Technology, such as feedback tools or platforms, can also be leveraged to streamline the feedback process.
Making feedback an integral part of the work environment transforms development into a dynamic, shared, and ongoing process. This approach empowers employees to make immediate adjustments, align their learning with organizational goals, and actively contribute to a culture where continuous improvement is not just encouraged but ingrained in the daily operations of the organization.
Another component of baking learning into how work is done is making employee’s expected outcomes known to employees. When people know what is expected of them - what they are expected to produce as an outcome of their work - they can map how to get there. This mapping will reveal skills and knowledge gaps providing a roadmap for their professional development. This takes the guesswork out of learning and development and the feeling that it is not working towards concrete goals.
Once you have curious employees, ongoing feedback loops and expected outcomes, give people the space to get there in the way that makes sense for them. There are a lot of learning resources available. Let employees engage with it and discover it in the way that makes sense for them and their learning styles.
For example: One employee might prefer to earmark the first hour of every day to work on formal coursework.
Another example: One employee might prefer rapid cycles of continuous learning embedded into their workflows.
Offer a variety of learning resources, including online courses, workshops, seminars, and on-the-job training. This also includes learning management systems with different content forms - short and long form, videos, quizzes, etc. This flexibility ensures that employees can engage in learning in a way that suits their individual needs.
This mix of learning resources can come from a variety of places. Purchase learning materials from sources like Coursera, Udemy and Open Sesame. Allow employees to access resources on the internet and podcasts. And for organization-specific skills, create organization-authored content.
Celebrate employees' learning achievements, whether it's completing a course, acquiring a new skill, or achieving a professional certification. Publicly acknowledge these milestones to reinforce the importance of continuous learning and motivate others to follow suit. Recognition creates a positive feedback loop, encouraging a culture where growth is not only supported but celebrated.
In conclusion, fostering a culture of continuous learning and development requires a holistic approach that combines organizational support, individual empowerment, and a commitment to celebrating achievements. By implementing these strategies, organizations can create an environment where employees are not just spectators but active contributors to their own professional growth, ultimately leading to a more agile and resilient workforce.