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The key to a successful company is adaptability. Employees and managers need to be able to learn new concepts, acquire skills and evaluate their work methods to grow. By creating a culture centered around learning, you can teach employees how to take initiative, expand their skill-set and strive for better results.

Mark Schroeder, the HR/L&OD Technology Strategist at Organic Valley, made it his mission to revamp the company’s employee learning and development processes. He wanted to develop a program that was sustainable, scalable and engaging, so he partnered with Cornerstone to build a learning portal for employees, where workers could access videos, playlists, online courses and other resources to better equip them for their jobs.

In just one year, the team saw results. “We have increased applications by 42% just by updating the user experience with a redesigned portal,” Schroeder said. Employees sign up for three courses on average each month, and the completion rate is at 100%.  

Transforming a company’s culture takes time and strategy, but it’s doable. Follow Schroeder’s three steps for integrating learning into your company.

1) Engagement

When employees are excited about the tools at their disposal, they’re more likely to put energy into learning.

To improve both the look and user experience of the learning portal, the team designed a new logo and created fresh visuals. Then, to further engage employees, they held a contest to brand the portal. “An employee suggested we call it ‘The Tool Shed,’ which is genius because it’s the place you go to get the tools you need to do your work,” said Schroeder.

The team also developed in-person learning events that departments could sign up for by visiting the Tool Shed. Schroeder wanted to make this resource a part of daily life at work so employees would be familiar with it when they had to do compliance training.

Involving employees in the process of updating the portal—not to mention incorporating their feedback—led to a greater overall buy-in and interest in learning, Schroeder said.

2) Empowerment

As part of the larger culture shift, Schroeder’s team wanted to empower employees to take initiative on projects and manage their own growth.

To start, they encouraged employees to contribute their own content to the Tool Shed in the form of sharable reports and documents. Next, they reconfigured the portal so employees could submit employee growth initiative (EGI) requests directly. As a result, employees were able to track and manage their own growth, instead of inundating managers with EGI requests to see their progress.

This change accomplished two things: First, it gave employees more ownership and autonomy over their work and second, it gave managers more time to focus on big-picture growth and leadership.

3) Education

To reinforce the idea of continued learning at Organic Valley, Schroeder and his team resolved to make the content within the learning portal as relevant and meaningful as possible.

As part of that goal, they designed a program to engage managers and increase learning retention. “We use Cornerstone to deliver 7-, 14-, and 30-day interval lessons and ‘engagement guides’ to managers before and after employee learning,” said Carrie Bero, the senior learning and organizational development specialist at Organic Valley.

The program grew quickly and changed the company’s approach to employee growth opportunities. Instead of promoting employees based solely on position or title, managers began to promote employees based on their skill levels, as shown in the learning portal.

Schroeder and his team then employed the Kirkpatrick Model of Evaluation to rate the effectiveness of the lessons:

1)    Reaction: How did you feel about the trainings?

2)    Learning: How much did you learn? Would you be able to pass a test?

3)    Transfer: Were you able to apply the lessons you learned to your job?

4)    Results: Did the company benefit from your learning?

They also sent every manager a guide to supporting employees before, during and after their respective learning portal courses.

Creating a learning-focused culture is crucial to a company’s success. What’s more, implementing programs that promote personal and professional development can lead to greater employee satisfaction and higher retention rates. With the help of Cornerstone’s learning platforms and courses, Organic Valley has been able to establish itself as a company that prizes learning and growth.

Photo: Creative Commons