In fact, a recent eLearning study found that 94% of employees surveyed said that they consider their company investing in training and development to be a major reason to stay with that company.
A company is facilitating a learning culture if its policies encourage employees to continue to acquire knowledge and skills after joining the team. A successful learning culture also creates space for this growth to happen collaboratively, so that team members can lift each other up and share knowledge along with diverse perspectives. This, in turn, expands the different ways in which this newly acquired knowledge can be applied.
1. Survey your employees to identify what they would like to learn.
You can attach this as an additional question during regular performance evaluations, or you can send around an anonymous survey soliciting responses. But getting clarity directly from your employees about what they want to learn is the simplest way to make sure that what you offer is what they want.
This is also a great way to check the pulse of your team; are they feeling shaky on communications, and so they want a soft skills course? Are they in need of new concepts to chew on, and so they want some coding classes? You can learn a lot about your team based on what sort of learning they crave most.
2. Consider future organizational goals—and train existing employees to get there.
Odds are part of your business plan involves growth or expansion in some new direction. Your employees will view this growth as a potential for their own career advancement. They will likely anticipate potential promotions for this new initiative, and they may expect to excel based on their demonstrated skills and loyalty.
As you work to rally internal excitement for this business growth, and align all teams to work in its favor, why not reward engaged employees by giving them the chance to learn whatever new skills are needed so that they can take the helm of progress?
For example, if you know your company plans to adopt Salesforce or Marketo in the future, why not train interested high achievers internally? These employees are likely already familiar with the operational details and daily challenges of your business, and so they can likely bring some critical perspective to optimize implementation and growth.
3. Gamify training to kickstart compliance.
Whether you want to reinforce compliance with tedious-but-necessary training, or if you want to get employees collectively excited about leveling up their technical know-how, gamifying training can help. Encourage healthy competition among team members to drive team progress down the learning track. Introduce small incentives along the way to keep interest piqued.
4. Diversify training to match people’s learning styles.
Some people prefer learning by listening. Others are visual learners, so they benefit from videos or diagrams or maybe they need to read the material. Still others need to put their hands on a problem and try to apply knowledge in order to learn it.
Odds are, most people on your team learn best using some combination of the above. When you consider investing in learning tools, whether for training or for continuing education, try to ensure that you accommodate multiple modalities. Make it easy for your employees to match the material to their learning style.
5. Hold team members accountable for setting aside time to learn.
High-achieving employees in particular might be overworked, or at the very least driven to maximize task productivity when accounting for every moment of their workday. As a result, your employees might deprioritize or procrastinate learning.
Make learning a part of the job. Set aside time during the week when everyone should be working on additional studies or side projects. Add learning to the task list for every employee, and make sure to highlight it to everyone the same way you would any other critical task. This is such a strong way to show your employees appreciation and respect as individuals beyond just their direct work-related output, and also allows their personal goals to be heard and valued in the office. In turn, this can keep employees loyal and motivated.
6. Pay for learning.
One trend among companies today is to offer employees—usually who have been with the company for a specified amount of time—a stipend to pay for some sort of education. Whether they choose a professional certification or to take a course at a local institution is up to them, but you can hold them accountable to actually use this perk.
7. Create social events so that employees can flex what they learn.
Perhaps the most common instance of such an event is the hack-a-thon, which is often a daylong sprint where different team members collaborate to solve real-world problems. Originating in the tech space, these sorts of events can bring everyone from computer programmers through graphic designers together, sharing knowledge and perspectives as they develop solutions. HR can get exposure to principles of data structures, tech can get a feel for UX principles, and so forth—all as a result of hack-a-thon teamwork.
Best of all? This event allows employees who might not otherwise interact very much to now connect and form bonds, which bodes well for company culture and productivity.
8. Invite subject matter experts to share knowledge.
It might be hard for individuals to successfully approach industry leaders and set up interactions where they can learn and network. However, you can leverage your company and your brand to pull in these subject matter experts and create entire events out of it. Your employees will value the opportunity, but the benefits of doing this extend beyond just the event itself. Inviting SMEs to come speak can generate publicity and even marketing content, all the while reinforcing your brand authority.
9. Create content via partnerships with leading institutions.
On a somewhat related note to the previous one, you can also form partnerships with leading institutions—such as major educational establishments—so that your employees can partner up with and learn from industry experts, outside of the business sector.
For example, if you work in finance, you might partner with a major economics department nearby to generate a series of educational content for your audience. In the process, your employees will gain access to economic experts, and between the discussions and the references made, knowledge acquisition will be somewhat inevitable.
10. Build spaces that require all employees to collaborate together.
One of the worst things that can happen to a learning culture is if less-experienced employees are afraid to speak up. Open discussion and ideation across all skill levels and team members are critical components to a healthy environment of learning and growth. Employees must be able to ask questions freely, and everyone should feel comfortable discussing the answers; this allows for misconceptions to be clarified and perspectives to be shared.
Of course, the requirements of different roles and schedules may prohibit such interactions from occurring organically. If this is the case at your business, consider scheduling company-wide brainstorming sessions or office hours so that everyone has a chance to access each other’s experience. Depending on what engagement there naturally looks like, consider incentivizing participation.
Not only does fostering a learning culture among your employees keep them happy and motivated, but it can encourage innovation that can directly drive your bottom line. Employees that are regularly engaged and learning new things are more likely to sharpen their problem-solving skills and do their jobs more effectively.
Andrea Pretorian loves problem-solving and refining communications. A strong believer in empowerment through knowledge, she spends her time researching the answers to problems and writing up these findings so that people can actually use them. You can read her work over at BitIRA U, including her standout piece on increasing female participation in cryptocurrency and blockchain.