7 steps to building a High-Impact learning culture
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The new generation of employees, namely the Generation Y, has grown up in a world that has been changing at a breakneck speed with new research, innovations and technology advancements. It is both intuitive and proven by various studies that these employees want to keep up to speed and learn continuously in a dynamic workplace. They expect employers to recognize, value and nurture their potential and gravitate towards environments that excel at the drill. The global, mobile and transient nature of this new workforce makes it easy for employees to jump ship for organizations that offer more growth and development opportunities.
To become the kind of employer that attracts and retains talent, organizations need to build a high-impact learning culture. While most HR professionals by now have identified that a culture of learning is becoming key to the health of the organization, not many can explain why that is so or pinpoint what constitutes an effective learning culture. A learning culture is a set of organizational values, conventions, processes, and practices that encourage individuals —and the organizations as a whole —to increase knowledge, competence, and performance. “High-impact” simply denotes that the learning culture is also creating positive, tangible impact on the business results.
High Impact Learning organizations (HILOs) are overall better at skills development and talent development. A study on high impact learning culture showed that HILOs that have a strong learning foundation in place tend to significantly outperform their peers by comparatively demonstrating enhanced employee productivity, greater ability to deliver quality products and better response to customer needs. They are also significantly more likely to be first to market, to possess skills to meet future demands and to be market share leaders.
While culture is easy to talk about, implementation and promotion of one is an elusive and a challenging task. Here are seven practical steps described in the High-Impact Learning Culture Model from the research firm Bersin& Associates to start building a high-impact learning culture.
- Make learning part of the organization’s strategic success: In order to prioritize learning as a tool for success, it is important to make learning a part of the organizations strategic roadmap. Integrating learning with talent management supports the capability development needs of employees and enhances the performance of the organization.
- Ingrain Learning in organization’s leadership culture: A culture is easier to cultivate en masse when leaders and facilitators are personally committed and invested. Organizations must use their development programs to encourage leaders and management to take ownership of the learning culture as these are the persons who will cultivate and reinforce the learning initiatives in various levels of employees.
- Engage captive audiences: The required training activities can illustrate and prove the value of learning by making it interesting and worthwhile for the learners. A “one size fits all” approach in learning does not meet anyone’s needs, and may even disengage learners. HR professionals should instead focus on sourcing dynamic, creative material that encourages participation and creating a resource portfolio that suits a range of learning styles.
- Make a great first impression: Organizations can use onboarding programs to encourage employees to take personal responsibility for learning and to demonstrate the organization’s commitment to development. Some HILOs have onboarding programs that start as early as the talent acquisition phase and continue through all talent management processes. Such an approach helps recruits hit the ground running, and personally benefits the individuals.
- Make Work educational: Embedded learning approaches focus on experiences and application instead of merely dumping theoretical ideas and information. Organizations can benefit from using embedded learning to maximize practical and reflective learning as this approach allows employees to reflect on how they learn by putting them to work on real business problems.
- Make knowledge sharing into organizational habit: Making a habit of sharing ideas, thoughts and knowledge creates an informed culture. Knowledge sharing can be institutionalized by incorporating incentives and opportunities into learning and performance management process.
- Make performance management a driver of development: Redesign performance management process to give at least equal weight to coaching and development. Coaching is a low cost but highly effective way to improve performance of employees and therefore it is in the interest of organizations to hold people accountable for developing others simultaneously while absorbing new skills for themselves.
Since every organization is different, and has its own unique circumstances, goals and objectives, each organization’s approach to cultivating a strong culture of learning will also be different – stressing different practices over others. For example, organizations that want to excel in product innovation should place more emphases on empowering employees. Companies that place a priority on employee productivity would focus on building trust. All good practices add significant value, but HR leaders must prioritize and select the practices that best align with the company’s business strategy to build a high impact learning culture.
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