by Sam Neo
I was recently invited by the Singapore Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry to speak on “Creating a culture of learning”. During which, I shared my thoughts on what are the key elements required to put your organization in a better position to establish the desired learning culture as well as suggested some possible tools that could be implemented depending on the varying context.
To create a culture of learning, organizations needs to help employees develop a GROWTH MINDSET. Before that happens, there are 7 components that organizations need to take into consideration to have a shot at making that happen:
1. Advocate Feedback
By giving feedback, we are talking about constructive feedback that is positive rather than fault-finding which often shuts the door for any further advice. Two-way feedback helps individuals, whether it’s at the receiving or giving end, to overcome their blindspots while helping others improve. Supervisors can help the team strengthen their work delivery while the subordinate can support the supervisor’s journey to become a better leader. Both ways, the organization wins because all parties learn and grow.
2. Promote sharing
Learning can only proliferate if people within the organization start sharing useful information. You can start small by forwarding useful videos/articles and later move on to having a sharing moment at the end of meetings. That way, the employees are constantly working in an environment where sharing is encouraged and has become a way of life. Through sharing, the speed at which information grows multiplies exponentially and that’s how the organization and people get up to speed a lot quicker.
3. Positive reinforcements
To make learning meaningful, organizations need to understand the importance of positive reinforcements. This can come in the form of tying certain incentives, whether monetary or non-monetary, to business outcomes generated from the learning. Even the simplest form of recognition e.g. providing certifications or acknowledging accomplishments from the learnings, could be options to keep employees motivated to pursue their development further. When people feel good, they want to do it more.
4. Encourage experiments
Innovations happen when we experiment and allow failure. Very often, companies are so fixated with success that they forget about the importance of allowing calculated risk through experimentation. Without experiments, organizations are less likely to develop new ways of addressing issues and face the risk of lagging behind competitions. That is why startups and smaller organizations are catching up really fast in today’s market. Their fearlessness and willingness to experiment is what helps them learn and grow at a much faster rate.
5. Make learning fun
Nobody wants to be reminded that attending a course or reading an article is part of work. What if you could integrate both work and fun? Wouldn’t that be great? Likewise, make learning an enjoyable process so that employees can retain more information and instill a vibrant learning environment at work is important. Making it fun also helps bring more people onboard the learning journey which is an essential multiplier to create the desired culture.
6. Enable learning with technology
To make learning easy and readily accessible, the use of technology and digitalizing the process is a must. With the range of products in the market, including plenty of cheap and free ones, there should be no excuses not to leverage on them to enable your employees to learn more effectively. When learning is made easy, employees have one less excuse preventing them from developing themselves. When information is readily accessible, learning can now become a way of life.
7. Measure success
In order to ensure traction, organizations need to measure the learning outcomes and success derived from the various learning platforms. That way, you will then be aware of where to channel your resources and which platforms provide the greatest bang for the buck to your employees. In addition, employees will also want to know what has worked and what has not to make a more informed choice. All these can only be made possible if proper systems are in place to measure success.
The Learning Tools
We often speak about the 70:20:10 rule which focuses on formal learning, social learning and experiential learning respectively. What are some tools that can be utilized under each of the 3 types of learning buckets?
Classroom training is the typical approach most workshops take when it comes to formal training. It’s probably one of the least effective methods as well. What can we do to make it a little more engaging and useful then?
The application of case studies could be one. Having contextualized content for learners to apply will help improve retention of knowledge and create greater relevance for them. Next consider role playing. Giving people roles will help them put on a different hat to better appreciate what’s happening on the other end, something they do not usually take time to understand. These are small yet effective things that could be incorporated into a classroom setting to enhance its effectiveness.
Beside classroom lessons, online learning is becoming more accessible and popular. Key here is to ensure that it is bite-sized and mobile enabled. In this smartphone era, people are often on the go and have short attention span. By having your content in small parts and readily accessible through mobile, half the battle has been won.
Mentorship is one key piece that is essential for professional development. With a proper mentor, individuals are pretty much equipped with a beacon to provide greater visibility of the path ahead. Mentors do not have all the answers, but they are there to help you find your answers. A solid mentorship programme should come with the following 5 key steps:
- Setting objectives and outcome
- Matching mentors to mentees
- Establish clear rules of engagement
- Track progress
- Proper closure
Next, consider building or at least joining professional communities. I’ve learnt how communities provide you with the support you need to go the distance and it’s where knowledge can be acquired so much faster than you can expect. There is only so much one can learn from within the company but by involving yourself in professional communities, you are getting access to external knowledge which could be contextualized for internal utilization.
The final learning bucket includes things like on-job-training and internship. This are common tools that can be used but for it to be effective, the following 4 elements have to be present:
- Plan out clear deliverables and learning outcomes
- Ensure a meaningful work scope
- Set milestones
- Take time to provide feedback
Last but not least, consider using technology to supplement the experiential learning. Technology like virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) can help overcome physical constraints to enable learners to experience situations more effectively.
The Blended Learning Approach
There are many tools in the market to help enable a learning culture. What’s important is to mix and match the right combination that best fits your organization. That said, adopt a blended learning approach that combines formal, social and experiential learning. Adjust the intensity of the tools usage accordingly to resources available and readiness of the organization.
I wish you all the best in creating a strong learning culture at your respective organizations and look forward to you creating a better workplace for tomorrow!