4 Tips to Establish a Culture of Learning at Your Business

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We live in an age of disruption. The pace of evolution continues to accelerate, reshaping the competitive landscape for businesses. With each change, yesterday’s truths become obsolete. Only businesses that adapt quickly can hope to survive.

Fostering a culture of continuous learning has become a competitive necessity. The facts speak for themselves. Enterprises with these environments were 37% more productive than peers and 92% more likely to innovate. The list of companies on the vanguard of this development reads like a roll call of industry leaders: Google, Amazon, Apple, and Pixar. It’s no surprise, then, that organizations are investing heavily in worker education. Global spending on worker education eclipsed $360 billion in 2018. 

However, many organizations struggle to create successful learning environments. About three-quarters of managers expressed disenchantment with their talent development programs. Workers reported using only 12% of what they learned. Uninspiring training costs companies lots of time and money —and sometimes their employees. 

It doesn’t have to be that way. These four strategies can help businesses make growth the standard.

1. Start by hiring people with a growth mindset.

According to Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, people with a growth mindset see ability as elastic rather than fixed. They’re constantly working to improve themselves. They readily seek opportunities for development. They’re resourceful when they encounter challenges and resilient in failure. 

In other words, they’re perfect partners for cultivating a culture of learning.

Remember, talent development starts with talent acquisition. Recruit curious employees interested in evolving; you’ll create a receptive audience for learning. Hire workers looking to repeat past successes, and you’ll grow stagnant. 

Wondering how to identify these people? Amazon’s Jeff Bezos offered a set of diagnostic questions — which coincide with a growth mindset — to pose before making hiring decisions: 

  • Will we admire this person?
  • Will this person raise the effectiveness of the group he or she is joining?
  • Along what dimension will this person become a superstar?

2. Model learning from the top down.

“Practice what you preach” applies to C-suite leaders, along with everyone else. While managers are quick to point out the value of educational development for employees, they’re less likely to embrace learning themselves. 

That needs to change to inspire their employees — or keep pace with the competitive environment beyond the company’s doors. 

In that vein, consider adopting these practices:

  • Share your reading lists.
  • Engage in learning opportunities with your workers.
  • Take up new challenges, and track your progress toward meeting them.
  • Invite and become more responsive to feedback.
  • Share failures, improvements, and what you’ve learned. 

3. Devote time to development.

It’s easy to say you care about professional development, but making time for it is another thing entirely. This requires a shift in values that cuts across departments, not just programs and positions. 

Firms that make learning part of their business model find growth happens naturally while working. Learning is valued, tracked, and rewarded in these workspaces, and employees stick around.

For instance, one of the nation’s fastest-growing commercial real estate brokerages, Keyser, invests in personal development as a way to ensure professional success for team members. The brokerage holds monthly “So You Want to Be a Badass” sessions for all employees. These sessions provide coaching, insights, and accountability to help them on both a personal and professional level.  

4. Provide meaningful feedback.

Without constructive criticism, learning is impossible. Unfortunately, 26% of employees don’t feel the feedback they receive helps them do a better job. Gone are the days when managers could simply point out when someone did something right or wrong. If managers truly want growth, they need to offer more guidance.

Feedback promoting learning can take many forms, but it usually includes focusing on how improvement can happen. What can an employee do differently next time? How will a manager provide more support? Good feedback comes with steps to help implement the changes needed. Great feedback looks at how to track improvement and progress.

Workforce training has become a necessity to thrive in today’s rapidly changing world. Most businesses recognize this, but few do it well. Successful enterprises don’t just offer learning programs; they create a culture of learning that influences everyday operations. They’re playing a long game — one that banks on creating adaptability. In a disruptive environment, adaptive organizations will be the only ones able to keep up.



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