Building an effective learning organisation is essential as we strive to meet evolving business needs and develop our people
Organisations require different skills as the business evolves. Additionally, we need new ways to develop, retain and attract talent in order to deliver on these new requirements. Old ways of training are becoming less effective and employees are becoming used to taking charge of their own development. More people are changing careers to find work that “fits” them better as they grow and change.
Just because you started your career as a marketing analyst doesn’t mean you have to stay there. You may find you have a particular knack for sales or HR. Colleagues who feel trapped in a position (one that is not stretching or developing them) may soon leave for greener pastures (where they feel they will be developed). Developing a learning organisation can help retain talented employees while still allowing them to grow and develop holistically.
Innovation and collaboration are often more effective with cross-functional understanding. Understanding how what we do impacts the organisation and the impact of our colleagues contributions can spur knowledge sharing, collaboration and innovation. Additionally, current formal training approaches are often not effective in providing the “always-on” (24/7) learning increasingly preferred by many colleagues. We need to shift our emphasis from learning participation (attending courses) to crafting a productive learning organisation. A productive learning culture encourages employees to take more responsibility for their own learning, increases knowledge sharing and to helps to create a supportive learning environment for all.
In order to make the shift to a productive learning organisation we need to craft 3 key components:
- Opportunities to learn. Give them access to high-quality, relevant learning opportunities. Bite sized chunks of information available as and when required.
- Capability to learn. Help them to understand how they learn, not just what to learn. Set them up for success. Craft support initiatives to help them prioritise and utilise opportunities effectively.
- Craft a learning environment. Encourage colleagues to help create a supportive learning environment for all. A culture of WE. Create a variety of opportunities to share ideas, successes/failures and lessons learned.
4 practical tips to help build a learning organisation:
1. Get leadership buy-in
Broad statements by leaders about the importance of learning will yield few real results. Knowledge sharing and personal development need to be lived from the top down. Also, get commitment to the metrics: “How much time do they expect employees to spend learning at work?”; “How will this impact your annual goals?”; “What measures will be used to determine how well your team is doing at embracing a learning culture?”
2. Hire to develop
A willingness to develop your people can help increase retention and loyalty. It is not always possible to find people with the right skills. Find people with the right attitude, essential core skills and with a willingness to grow and train them to fit your requirements. This enables you to develop existing talented people within your organisation. Opportunities to learn and grow are key drivers of employee engagement and retention of talent.
3. Make learning a shared responsibility
Personal development is also the responsibility of the employee. Not all learning will take place at work. If a team member wants to transition into a different department it is reasonable to expect some of their learning to take place after hours. Open communication is the key to crafting an effective learning culture. Discuss what kinds of learning your direct reports need and why. Strive to align their personal goals to the requirements of the organisation as whole. Not every course they want to do will help you achieve your goals directly, but developing your people has a positive impact on retention. Discuss your expectations and listen with an open mind.
4. Speak skills not roles
When a colleague wants to explore a new role in the organisation, break the role down into the skills necessary to succeed. Offer opportunities and support to help them develop the required skills. A focus on skills helps colleagues understand the elements required to produce results, how it all fits together and (perhaps more importantly) helps keep great people in your organisation.
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