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Why develop a learning culture?

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Training and development play a crucial role in expanding employees’ knowledge and skills to create a more effective workforce. But what if your business went one step further to actively develop a ‘learning culture’?

This means going beyond the usual formal training and development programmes to foster a work environment where individual growth is highly prized, unleashing employees’ potential, making them happier, more engaged and feeling like they have ownership and accountability over their learning.

Research shows that companies who place great value on learning enjoy 37% higher productivity and are 92% more likely to innovate. Crucially, they also stand a better chance of retaining top talent for longer - something that in a competitive candidate-driven market can only be a good thing.

For change to be adopted within an organisation, it’s obvious that leadership needs to be fully engaged. It’s up to those in charge to ‘walk the talk’, showing that they’re constantly striving to learn more and place value in sharing new ideas they’re finding out about. It also sends the message that no one should ever stop learning and developing, no matter their age or seniority.

Focus on peer coaching

However, there’s little point leadership building a culture of continuous learning if the rest of the employees fail to buy into it.

One way to help people fully own their own learning journeys is by putting in place a solid peer-to-peer coaching system, fully explaining the benefits that come from sharing knowledge with colleagues whether that’s coaching or being coached along the way.

Part of this could be introducing regular 360-degree reviews with the aim to help each other improve and develop.

Reverse mentoring - with a younger colleague coaching an older colleague on digital skills - can also be a useful tool for knowledge-sharing, particularly across hierarchies or generations. It helps challenge generational stereotypes and biases and brings fresh ideas and perspective all round.

And encouraging individuals to set their own learning goals which they can share with other team members can help them become more accountable when it comes to hitting them - plus let colleagues know the areas they want to focus on. This kind of transparency can help with peer knowledge-sharing in the long run.

Other examples of initiatives to put in place could be:

  • ‘Lunch and learn’ sessions where people discuss topics they’re interested in
  • Colleagues volunteering to teach classes in skills they’ve gained
  • Book clubs where departments take turn to lead discussion on relevant chapters
  • Points or prizes awarded for the number of books read or relevant articles shared

Younger generations demand learning

Most employees are keen to develop. But as a generation, millennials - those born between 1981 and 1996 - are especially engaged, curious and hungry to learn.

Gallup’s 2016 report ‘How millennials want to work and live’ highlights that 87% of this cohort feel ‘professional or career growth and development opportunities’ are important to them in a job (compared to 69% of non-millennials).

And they’re more likely to jump ship if they’re not getting the training and development they crave.

If millennials are asking for more career growth, then their younger siblings from Generation Z (born in the mid-90s onwards) are set to demand even more.

Through our work at RHL placing strong technical and professional candidates in interesting, fulfilling roles, this is something we notice. The fact is, for businesses to remain attractive workplaces for younger employees it’s crucial to make the most of this willingness to learn.

Futureproofing employees

The pressing issue of how humans can create value in an increasingly automated workplace is another reason to foster a learning culture.

In a future where soft skills like thinking, relating and intellectual curiosity will be prized, the ability to learn continuously and stay relevant will make the most difference in ultimately staying employable.

It’s becoming crucial for employees to stay open to new things and be able to adapt to change - or, along with their employers, they’re doomed to fall by the wayside eventually.