The vital steps to fostering a culture of workplace learning and development

10 July 2019

The value and benefits that a culture of learning and development can produce make it an approach that’s well worth investing the appropriate resources in. When deployed properly, employees can help businesses thrive in areas of productivity, profit innovation and growth, and perhaps more importantly, they do it because they’re happy to do so.

Conversely, a workplace that neglects to engage its employees may see a lack of enthusiasm, dips in productivity and perhaps even an increase in staff turnover. It’s imperative that you create an environment of continuous learning and development if you value the efforts of your workforce. However, it’s not always the easiest thing to put in place – especially for small businesses that may be comparatively strapped for resources.

Nevertheless, if you’re committed to the process, the gains you can make mean even one or two changes around the office can positively affect its culture. We’ve already seen how models such as 70/20/10 can make a positive difference to the workplace in a less formal manner. Here, we’ll delve deeper into the topic of improving the day-to-day business environment and present a collection of methods you can deploy if you’re looking to implement continuous learning and development in your business.

Delivering a training session

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The importance of a happy employee

It should come as no surprise that something as intangible as employee happiness can result in feelings of empowerment and a sense of belonging in the workplace. While material rewards for good work have their place, the meaningful collaboration of learning and development is arguably more important to employees. With the right resources, employees feel valued and supported, which is essential if you want them to feel less like a cog in the business’ machinery.

What role can learning and development play?

Rather than simply a means of building skills, a learning and development culture can be part of your business’ entire value proposition. That means you can position yourself as a business that attracts the top talent and helps them improve and grow as employees, which can be very attractive to prospective applicants.

By showing that you’re willing to invest in learning and development, it demonstrates that you treat people as individuals rather than a homogenous group. Consider the potential domino effect it might have on your employees. If the training is good, it can boost performance. This performance can boost productivity. If it becomes popular enough, it has the opportunity to be shared across networks. This can create a dialogue which may result in peer-generated content that boosts others’ learning experience. The knock-on effects this can produce makes it an extremely effective tool for those who immerse themselves in it.

sharing ideas

How can you foster this culture?

Get employees in the right frame of mind

Continuous learning is not just about introducing new policies and hoping for the best. The business’ current culture isn’t necessarily set in stone, but it takes effort to chip away if you want to introduce a new one. To begin with, explain to your team the reasons for wanting a shift in culture – why do you want people to participate? How will they benefit from the coaching?

Doing so makes your intentions transparent to the team, but it also helps them get into a frame of mind that prepares them to learn. How they respond to these aims depends entirely on the individual. Some will struggle with the new approach, but others will see it as an opportunity to develop and improve. You’ll identify their mindsets over time, so you’ll know which areas need work in order to get people fully on board.

Build up your employee’s trust

providing feedback

Following on from the above, some people may need to earn your trust more than others. This means you’ll have to do more to reach out and connect with those who are slightly sceptical at the idea. This tends to involve:

  • Listening – While quantitative data can be beneficial, interacting with your employees to find out what they need, when they need it and how they want to achieve it is a straightforward solution. Show you’re invested in them by asking the questions they want answering.
  • Responding – Once you’ve acquired their requests, it’s up to you to respond appropriately. From here, you might have to adapt your strategy to fit the needs of your employees.
  • Involving – Create an atmosphere where they can learn informally and socially; your strategy should encourage the sharing and re-sharing of helpful content and resources which can be weaved throughout your team.
  • Empowering – Show that you trust in their abilities by allowing them to forge their own path of learning and development. Provide them with the necessary support but don’t be afraid to loosen the reigns when you feel they’re ready.
  • Show them how to take feedback – Constructive feedback is an important part of the development process. Certainly, if team members ask for feedback, it shows that they’re willing to learn and grow. However, they might not necessarily be used to receiving said feedback, instead becoming defensive at what they perceive as criticism.

Inspiring junior colleague

Make sure they aren’t missing out on a chance to improve, and let them in on how to handle constructive feedback. While they may know that constructive feedback is good for them, they may not be able to detach emotions from what they’re hearing. They may feel their position within the group is being threatened; it’s a natural flight-or-fight response that can be unlearned. Consider the following when telling them how to manage their emotions:

    • Set professional goals: This gives them something to orient towards, allowing them to focus their efforts.
    • Welcome any questions: They’ll likely be full of questions during feedback sessions, so let them ask questions if they’re struggling to process certain information.
    • Analyse the patterns: If you make feedback a regular thing, then they should be able to recognise patterns from the previous sessions. Encourage them to write down the patterns they’ve recognised.
    • Develop a strategy: From here, they can work on correcting or improving these behaviours. Inform them of how these behaviours may become barriers to any goals they have set, and have them identify steps you could take to address these points.
    • Be supportive of their action plan: Now that you know where they need to go, encouragement and guidance can help them allay the emotional response when giving feedback.

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Implement peer-to-peer coaching

Peer-to-peer coaching programmes let employees volunteer to teach classes or deliver presentations on skills they’re experienced in, whether they’re related to work or not.

Give them the chance to create a peer-to-peer coaching system as a means of sharing their knowledge with others. This allows an atmosphere of free, personalised learning to flourish where people are open to sharing information and ideas regularly and unconsciously.

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The views, opinions and positions expressed within this article are those of our third-party content providers alone and do not represent those of Gazprom Energy. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. Gazprom Energy accepts no liability for any errors, omissions or representations.

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