Learning cultures don’t just happen. They’re a result of intentionality, a healthy discontent for the status quo, and a desire to continually grow and evolve. Here are five actions that I’ve found are essential for creating a learning culture inside an organization.
1. Get connected.
Be aware of what’s going on in your organization. What are your employees saying? When’s the last time you asked? Employee development programs should address the challenges employees are facing inside your organization. Don’t isolate yourself. Talk to your people. If your employees aren’t willing to openly share their thoughts face-to-face, facilitating an organizational effectiveness survey (that employees can complete anonymously) is a good way to learn about underlying challenges.
2. Ensure it’s relevant.
Know what you want your team to learn, and be able to verbalize the impact that learning will have – on their role as individuals, on each team, and on the organization as a whole. How will this learning move your organization closer to the vision or help employees fulfill the mission? If your learning opportunities are relevant to an employee’s growth then they will be engaged. This means less effort towards entertainment and games to engage and maintain their attention.
3. Make it applicable.
Great content is important, but whatever it is, it needs to be applicable. Help your team understand how to live out the principles you are teaching. Answer the following questions:
- What do you want to accomplish? Be specific.
- What will your team do differently? Don’t make training an event; something must start or stop from the learning.
- How will the team apply what they’ve learned? Give specific examples of how the learning can be applied in the teams’ day-to-day world.
4. Insist on top-level participation.
The first thing employees at all levels want to know when they attend a leadership development training or attend a team building course is, “Will my leader learn this, too? Will they support it?” Your top-level leaders set their priorities and expectations through their actions. If they don’t invest in themselves or take part in the learning, they send a message to the rest of the organization that either they don’t need to learn what everyone else is learning or that they don’t plan on actively supporting it. Busyness is not an excuse. Executive involvement is the number one learning environment killer or enhancer.
5. Follow through with accountability.
Learning shouldn’t be an “event.” It should be an ongoing process that changes the way people work, interact, lead, and treat others inside the organization. Leaders need to walk the talk or stop the talk. Learning without action is only frustrating. Remind others of what you’ve learned. Model living it out. Point out positive change when you see it.