What Does it Mean to Foster a Culture of Learning?
The world is facing tectonic changes in the way people perceive and process information..
For instance, 6.378 billion people now have a mobile phone, each one having access to unlimited information. The amount of knowledge we now have at our disposal is invaluable in the world of business just as it is for each of us individually. Big and small companies alike have to keep up with the expanding knowledge and research that the Information Age demands, which means CEOs and SMB owners need to embrace the culture of learning to stay ahead of the curve.
What they especially need to do is adapt to the digital future of learning – which has already arrived – while retaining some traditional learning strategies where necessary. This article will explain how businesses can foster a culture of learning, how to inspire employees to embrace this approach, and how it all pays off in the long run.
Understanding the Culture of Learning
Every company sets a specific framework within which its CEOs, managers, and employees perform their tasks. Developing a culture of learning means enriching that business framework with certain skills and practices that employees will be acquiring over time. As opposed to a work culture in which people just carry out managers’ orders and “get it over with” before going home, this system emphasizes the power of knowledge and lifelong education.
Comparing Microlearning and Macrolearning
Based on educational materials and the learning process itself, learning is divided into two main categories: macrolearning and microlearning. Macrolearning is a somewhat traditional approach in which learners study an entire knowledge domain or subdomain. For instance, if you decide to learn Spanish for business, you can enroll in a course where teachers will have you sit a placement test and check your current knowledge. Once you finish the course, you’ll extend your knowledge of Spanish by the amount of educational materials processed in that course. Typically, macrolearning-based training includes a final exam and a grade.
Microlearning, on the other hand, is a type of learning in which diverse and complex data is divided into numerous chunks of information and typically presented via new technology. So, learners can keep going through educational materials at their own pace, in line with their preferences.If traditional language courses are an example of macrolearning, language-learning apps, such as Babbel or Duolingo, represent microlearning. The end goal of a microlearning process is not a grade or diploma but rather ensuring that learners gradually master a new skill or practice. Business owners and company CEOs need to get to know their employees to decide which approach would work better in their work environment. Sometimes they’ll need to offer both approaches to satisfy different learners’ needs.
Analyzing the Current Organizational State
Employees can’t establish and foster a culture of learning on their own. While some workers are self-reliant players who push the envelope and learn more than necessary when handling daily tasks, the seeds of learning culture must be sown from the top. Business owners, CEOs, team leaders, and managers are the ones that make a difference. These individuals need to analyze the current state in their organizations, departments, and teams to identify the weak spots and see what learning models work best for their staff. Their employees should identify their weaknesses and strengths in performing their daily business tasks. Once they realize how they can help employees improve their skills via training and continuous learning, the next step is choosing the right methods and tools for reaching that goal.
Analyzing Company Needs
Managers and executives introducing a culture of learning need to analyze their company’s needs and act accordingly. In every company, there are two major sets of skills on which training sessions commonly depend:
- Skills that new hires need to learn to start working.
- New skills for existing employees to improve productivity or support business advancements.
The latter directly depends on the decisions adopted by the organizations’ executive board or the CEO. Depending on the size and type of business, training sessions can be organized on a team level, as well. It’s usually the case in companies where teams have a high level of independence. When the company’s needs for educating employees have been identified, it’s time to see what resources and assets you have at your disposal. Here are the key considerations regarding the educational materials:
See what in-house materials you can use for training sessions. Allocate enough funds to buy additional books, guidebooks, and online resources.
Tutors and Instructors
Who is going to create business content for your training sessions and hold the lectures for your employees? Do you have in-house professionals who know how to transfer knowledge, or do you have to hire external instructors? Depending on your end goals and your employees’ preferences, is it more practical to apply macrolearning or microlearning tactics?
If your employees prefer learning via apps, do you have the resources to support this kind of training? Conversely, if your staff prefers traditional in-person teaching, do you possess enough physical space and the equipment to arrange it? Double-check what learning forms your company can support. Shop around to see if any existing learning platforms can support your business goals and prepare online training for your staff.
Adapting to Different Learners’ Preferences
Roughly speaking, there are two types of learners in every group of employees. On the one hand, there are proactive/independent learners who strive to learn new things even without being asked to. The other side of the learning spectrum is inhabited by passive learners who learn new skills when asked but don’t show an initiative for independent learning. This is something that business owners and CEOs must take into account when introducing a culture of learning in their business.
For starters, make a self-evaluation form regarding the learning process and hand it out to your employees. Let them express their preferences in terms of potential training sessions and seminars. Some employees will choose to sit through a tutor-guided course, others will opt for a series of webinars, while some of them will vote for independent learning sessions via apps or e-learning platforms.
If organizing webinars and app-based learning, provide your employees with a library of educational materials they can access whenever they want. This will add to easy-access independent learning that beats the forgetting curve (read more about it below). When you gather the data on your employees’ learning preferences, you’ll know what instruments to use to foster a culture of learning.
Managers as Role Models
We’ve already pointed out that a company’s learning etiquette starts from the top. Managers who set an example as learning enthusiasts have better chances of convincing their employees they should follow suit. In other words, business executives should spread a culture of learning on a daily basis. Sharing educational content on social media, recommending books and learning materials online and in person, or participating in the creation of in-house learning materials are only some practical ways of promoting a culture of learning.
Richard Branson is an example of a curious CEO who has embarked on a journey to lifelong education. As someone who has never finished school, he searched for alternative ways of gathering and expanding his knowledge of the world. During this quest, he continued learning more about people, business, and learning itself along the way. Today, Richard Branson fosters a culture of learning and boosts creativity in all the companies under his supervision. He supports different kinds of learners/employees to reach their full potential. There are other interesting managers out there that try to see the learning process from different angles, as well. This is the path that every aspiring manager should take if they want to inspire and lead their workers along the path of learning.
Ensuring Continuous Supervision and Feedback
Learning without proper supervision and feedback is a waste of employees’ time and the company’s resources. That’s why business owners and learning specialists who organize training sessions inside companies need to work together on supervision and feedback. Here are the main bases they need to cover:
- Setting the end goals- Learners/employees need to know why they’re learning new things. We’ve already mentioned proactive vs. passive learners. The latter especially need a reasonable explanation, supported by facts, to accept a culture of continuous learning within the company.
- Defining the milestones- Defining the milestones helps business owners, trainers, and employees stay motivated and focused on the learning process.
- Organizing evaluation and self-evaluation- Instructors and/or business owners need to organize evaluation and self-evaluation before the learning process, after each milestone, and at the end of a learning unit.
The bases will apply differently in macrolearning and microlearning. If you opt for traditional, macrolearning strategies, your employees will need to pass a test after each unit or show the practical skills they’ve learned. Using the microlearning method will include lots of smaller revisions, continuous feedback, and the adaptation of the learning materials along the way. Still, the end goal is the same: helping employees acquire new knowledge or skills to do their work better.
Considering the Forgetting Curve
Encouraging a culture of learning within on a corporate level needs to take into account the forgetting curve. According to the Harvard Business Review, many employees learn wrong things at the wrong time. Managers organize courses or launch learning platforms either when they get the budget for it or when it works best for them. Consequently, workers learn new things when they still might not be able to use them in practice.
If we know that the forgetting curve is the steepest in the first few hours after we get exposed to new information, it’s clear that learning must have the right timing. If you don’t apply the data or skills you’ve learned soon afterward, you’ll forget most of it. That’s why companies that support a culture of learning should organize courses and start learning apps or platforms only when their employees actually need that knowledge.
Learning and Long-Term Profits
Encouraging continuous learning within a company is something that brings profits in the long run. A study conducted by Deloitte shows that high-performing learning organizations increase their chances of becoming market share leaders in their industry by 17%. Moreover, the ability to deliver top-notch products grows by 26% for companies that support a culture of learning. The same study has shown that such organizations have seen a 37% productivity increase on average, as well. So, if the process of learning is adequately organized, adapted to both the employees’ and the company’s needs, and carried out by knowledgeable trainers, the company is more likely to increase its profits at the end of the day.
Organizations that nurture a culture of learning and continuous education tend to show better results on the market and overcome business challenges more easily. However, every educational process within a company requires proper pre-learning analysis, thorough communication with employees, and in-depth strategic planning. The tips and considerations we’ve given here will help you cover all the bases and ensure a productive and meaningful learning experience for your employees.
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