Are You Establishing a Culture for Learning?

Posted by Jennifer Patterson  /  February 17, 2017  /  Human Resources Management, Workplace Culture   —   No Comments ↓

Photo of smart businessman reading a big bookYou’ve proven the worth of training and development in certain instances to leadership and management. Now comes the real challenge - convincing them that establishing a culture for learning throughout the organization is even more valuable.

It’s a shift many companies have made and value deeply. HR professionals sometimes face resistance while working towards establishing a pervasive culture for learning, often due to a lack of acceptance or buy-in from leaders. Here are some ways to help convince your decision-makers that a culture of learning is ideal for your company.

Start at the top

Saying you have a culture of learning is very different than actually maintaining one. In order for it to be fully realized, a learning-first mentality must be engrained in the organization’s day-to-day operations. It must be seen and heard from every corner of the office – even by offsite staff.

From the onset, making such a deep-seeded culture shift could seem intimidating to your leadership members. There’s also a chance that it’s too abstract of a concept for some to visualize. Short answer: it is a collection of thinking, habits, and beliefs that result in sustained, ongoing critical learning.

It’s best to frame your pitch with the success it can bring. “Companies that practice routine professional development, formal and informal training sessions, and overall promote learning in every sector of their business are more likely to succeed,” says Heather Lantz from XanEdu. You can strengthen your argument by citing companies have done this and, as a result, are more successful and better equipped to manage change.

If employees at all levels are expected to embrace a learning culture, they have to see and hear those above them promoting its value. Therefore, communication is vital. Your organization’s embracement of a learning culture must be evident in both its language and business choices—frequently and consistently.

This may require a behavior shift from leadership and management. You can reassure them it’s for the greater good. The more they speak of—and believe in—the power of knowledge, the easier widespread adoption will be.

Lead by example

Leaders and managers, once on board, should be ready to lead by example. Lead by example tends to be a cliché sentiment in business, but it’s especially apt in situations where entire culture shifts are pursued. In addition to how its acceptance is discussed and demonstrated, employees at all levels should be side-by-side with their leaders and management for training and development initiatives. Thus, confirming the company’s belief that knowledge is valued.

If your leadership team still seems hesitant, explain the benefits of a learning culture. Companies that made similar changes have seen:

  • increased efficiency/productivity and profit
  • increased employee satisfaction and decreased turnover
  • improved employee mindsets
  • improved sense of ownership and accountability throughout the organization
  • greater emphasis and perceived importance of knowledge inquiry and sharing
  • greater adaptability to change

Even if your organization saw change in only one of those areas, it would be worth the effort. How could the team possibly argue with any of those payoffs? Getting there takes work, though. And everyone onboard has to be ready to commit to its success and follow through. Otherwise, the culture will revert back to what it was before.

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What’s in it for them?

Some leaders may have difficulty seeing the return on consistent learning. When that happens, let the data do the storytelling for you. In her article How to Build a Culture of Learning (and Why You Need to), Sharon Florentine cites a PayScale report with suggestions for framing the ROI with the following criteria:

Outcome Measurements

Outcome measurements capture the impact learning and development is expected to have on the organization's most important goals. For example, a sales training initiative might be expected to contribute 20 percent toward the company goal of increasing sales by 10 percent.

Effectiveness Measurements

Effectiveness measurements are indicators of how well learning contributes to organizational outcomes. In other words, effectiveness measures are about quality.

Efficiency Measurements

Efficiency measurements are indicators of an organization's activity and investment in learning. Examples include the number of learners and the percentage of employees that number represents, the number of courses, cycle times, utilization rates, and training costs, etc.

Framing the impact of a learning culture in terms that your leaders comprehends serves you both well. They’ll have a better view into how the commitment is shaping the organization. With that, you should have increased support to maintain the change.

Achieving a culture of learning takes a lot of effort to ensure that buy-in is in place and everyone is committed to seeing it through. That requires consistent communication, positive modeling by leadership and management, and evidence of the culture in every corner of the office. You’ll get one step closer to shifting the culture of your organization if you remember the points above while delivering your plea for this beneficial change.

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Topics: Human Resources Management, Workplace Culture