But First . . . Why HR?
Learning and HR go hand-in-hand, but the learning doesn’t have to end at policies, procedures, and best practices. Learning can—and should—extend beyond the handbook and related paperwork. The “culture” aspect of “culture of continuous learning” is not an empty buzzword; it’s imperative both to the success of the HR initiative and the success of the company.
We already know culture is at the core of digital transformation and business adaptability, but think deeper for a moment. What do both of those have in common? The answer is the people behind the decisions. The ones who move the needle. The ones who innovate. The ones who push the business to grow. Those milestones won’t be reached if employees feel stagnant, disengaged, and unchallenged in the workplace—and many do. Recent data from Gallup shows worldwide employee engagement numbers peeking in at just 15 percent. What is happening? How can we combat this revenue-killer?
Here’s one way: HR can keep key players engaged by integrating learning into the entire culture of the company, not just the onboarding process. Now, let’s get into exactly how.
Ten Ways to Build a Culture of Continuous Learning
- The basics: Encourage employees to take advantage of traditional learning opportunities like classes, seminars, etc. I had to start here, as we can’t overlook the obvious: even seasoned employees can get burned out. Encouraging team members to sign up for outside classes or other opportunities—even up to reimbursing tuition for college courses—can keep their skills (and minds) fresh.
- Create a mentoring program for so junior employees can learn from senior employees. Entry-level team members have much to learn and, often, have a desire to soak up all the knowledge they can so they can ascend the ranks. Conversely, senior employees—some of whom may even be near retirement age—have a wealth of knowledge to share. Creating a mentoring program to pair up people from these two groups is a great way to build comradery and help boost the speed and efficacy of the training process.
- Don’t just onboard; train. Training should be a part of the onboarding process, even subtly. For example, require your new hires to access traditional onboarding materials via a platform or database they’ll be required to use once they begin work. The employee gains exposure while completing required tasks—two birds, one stone.
- Make it relevant. Employees need to be able to understand the purpose behind HR learning initiatives. Answer the question, “Why do I need to know this? How does it impact my career and help me reach my goals? How does it fit into the bigger mission of the company?” This type of context is critical to build the buy-in, personalization, and enthusiasm that form key pillars of engagement.
- Incentivize learning. Continuous learning doesn’t have to be arduous. HR can make it fun by incentivizing employees to learn—and ultimately share—new skills. My colleague, Meghan Biro, has written about one way to do this effectively. Read: Say Yes to Gamification.
- Encourage employees to expand their horizons. It can be easy to stick to the same routine. Encourage employees to cross-train or take a class outside their comfort zone to keep things fresh.
- Schedule regular learning sessions. Don’t just tell employees the value of continuous learning—put it on the schedule with regular luncheons, presentations, or other company-wide events, bringing the importance of learning front and center.
- Leverage technology that allows employees to learn from each other—and share what they know. Collaboration technology is a game changer, but so are enterprise social networks (ESNs). ESNs are uniquely suited for culture-building and promoting learning, as teams can often join groups or participate in chats centered to either learn or share.
- Get managers involved. Managers prioritize organizational priorities—as they should. HR, however, can encourage managers to monitor the learning progress of their teams alongside those big-picture metrics to see the real impact—and, ultimately, to help make the business case for more investments into learning initiatives.
- Curate and showcase the expertise of teams. Don’t hesitate to showcase employees who have new skills, leveraging their success to motivate other key players in your organization. This type of recognition can create healthy competition that drives not only personal growth, but also the meeting of business objectives.
According to IDC, although creating a culture of continuous learning requires processes and systems to implement, it is “the best way to turn your people’s expertise into your greatest asset.” I couldn’t agree more.
Does your workplace prioritize continuous learning, and do you feel there’s a rise in engagement as a result? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Additional Resources on This Topic
Boost Employee Engagement with the Learning Triangle
The Operating Model for the Digitally Transformed Enterprise
This article was first published on FOW Media.