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6 Ways to Foster a Culture of Learning in the New Year

Anita Bowness

Principal Product Manager: Cornerstone

As we get ready to ring in the New Year, it's that time of year when we also start thinking about what resolutions we want to tackle. For many, professional growth and development top the list. The start of a new year is also a great time for learning leaders to reassess what they can do to help encourage and facilitate a culture of continuous learning within their organizations.

Building an organizational culture of learning benefits both employees and businesses. According to a Bersin & Associates study, companies with strong learning cultures experience greater employee productivity and market share. These companies also have a competitive edge when it comes to attracting and retaining top talent. So what are some simple yet effective steps learning leaders can take to help create a culture of learning?

Here are Six Ways to Foster a Culture of Learning:

1. Secure Executive Buy-In

In companies with strong learning cultures, executives are dedicated to learning. They lead by example and regularly communicate their ongoing commitment to employees' professional growth and development.

2. Make First Impressions Count

Onboarding shouldn't end at filling out the W2. New hires will form opinions within the first few days and weeks on the job about your organization's learning culture and the value that is placed on learning. Ensure you have a robust onboarding program that introduces new hires to and is strongly reflective of your organization's commitment to learning.

3. Facilitate Informal Learning

It's important to remember that the informal, collaborative learning that happens every day amongst colleagues is just as valuable as your formal learning programs. People learn by asking and answering questions, sharing experiences and referencing resources as they need them. These actions are known as collaborative learning, and there are many small, easy steps learning professionals can take to help encourage this type of learning.

4. Tie Learning to Performance

Is there anything more frustrating for an employee than receiving a performance review with areas for improvement noted, but not having access to the resources they need to close those skill gaps? By linking employee performance to learning, organizations can support employee development while also benefiting from a more competent, skilled workforce. If an employee needs to improve his or her technical knowledge of your company's products, for example, a manager can easily assign and track completion of relevant training courses within a learning management system (LMS).

5. Make Content Easier to Find, Access and Use

Great content is critical, but so is its format and method of delivery. The modern worker demands the flexibility that comes with having learning available anytime, anywhere and from any device. Millennials-who will make up 75 percent of the workforce within just 15 years-are the most technologically connected generation ever and expect rapid access to information. Investing in quality content from a content provider such as OpenSesame or Lynda.com and integrating it with your LMS ensures employees have on-demand access to the information they need to do their jobs. Employees are also much more likely to embrace and adopt a culture of continuous learning when learning content is mobile-friendly and accessible 24/7.

6. Demonstrate the Business Impact of Learning

When senior leaders and managers can see the impact of learning on performance, they are more likely to promote ongoing learning and development within their teams. Learning leaders should continually track and refine metrics for their learning programs, and regularly report out on the bottom-line impact of these programs to executives. While there is no universal set of metrics that will apply to every learning program, key metrics that can help you prove the business impact of your L&D investments may include engagement levels, attrition rates, time to competency for new hires and time to market for new products and services.

While transforming an organization's learning culture doesn't happen overnight, companies that move down that path stand to reap big benefits. As Bersin & Associates notes, "Choosing to build a strong learning culture is a business strategy, not just a training and HR strategy. Its impact on the business is significant and measurable." By taking these steps, you will be well on your way to creating a high-impact learning culture!

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