Create a Culture of Learning at Your Company

By on January 10, 2013
Create a Culture of Learning at Your Company

Are you tasked with all things related to employee training and development at your company and don’t know where to begin? Perhaps you are the owner of a small company, an Operations Manager, a Vice President, a Human Resources Manager, a Training & Development Specialist hired in for just this opportunity, or simply someone who seems like the very best choice at hand. Or, maybe you’re simply thinking about how to go about creating a learning culture, but are delayed due to lack of direction and resources. You realize this is an enormous undertaking and your background does not necessarily give you the knowledge and insight needed to create a whole new order of cutting-edge skilled, reliable, civil, safety-conscious, team-inspired, globalized, legacy leaders and individual contributors. Whew!

The more you read and study, the more you realize that there are many variables, approaches, and industry and educational experts with distinct viewpoints, prices, delivery methods, and timeframes. Add to that your own company’s internal challenges and dysfunctions, and it’s no wonder that training is often not valued and understood to be a critical component to the longevity, success, and improved bottom line of the company. Ignore developing your management and employees and you could well pay the price in ways that can be readily seen, but sometimes are veiled. A mistake may cause downtime, rework, unhappy customers, patients, etc. but is often more visible, while employee turnover due to less-than-stellar management and systems is usually a bit harder to identify and associate with cost, but costly nonetheless.

The State of the Industry Report is American Society for Training & Development’s (ASTD’s) annual review of workplace learning and development and trends. It estimates that U.S. organizations spent $1228 per learner on employee learning and development in 2011. Nationwide, that’s a sizable chunk of change, but nevertheless, most companies would not be known as having a “Learning Culture or Learning Environment” where learning is prized, planned, and made a part of the company lifeblood.

Like most business personnel, you probably realize by now that most training is not seen as an academic exercise, but as a clear business decision spurred on by a desire for results. Sure, there will be other benefits derived (such as greater confidence due to improved skills), but companies desire a return on their investment. That’s where we can help you connect the dots.

After working with many companies over the years, and having a background in business management as well as training and development, I’d like to offer the following 10 steps to help you stay reasonably sane while building a learning environment. I’ll also ask my Workforce Solutions Group colleagues and others in business and professional development to weigh in with their observations and case studies. We believe that learning from other’s experiences speaks volumes.

In coming weeks and months, we hope you find that these posts will help guide you within a framework of simplicity in defining your very real training needs, while encouraging bite-sized action steps in building your company’s learning culture. Challenges and complexities won’t be ignored, but neither should they become a stranglehold as you move forward. Take comfort in knowing that you’re not alone in this journey, and we’ll be privileged to respond to your questions and concerns either via blog posting, email, or phone.

10 Steps to Building a Learning Environment (while staying sane)

  1. Start with the end in mind – What is your company’s learning vision for the next three years?
  2. Investigate the skills gaps – Don’t just guess. Survey, Assess, Ask, Observe.
  3. Know why you are training – Why train? What changes and results does your company want to see? How will you measure?
  4. Connect training to business results to get buy-in from those in charge.
  5. Capitalize on informal learning – Valuable learning also takes place outside the classroom or OJT experiences. Build on opportunities.
  6. Find the right instructor/facilitator and delivery mode – Is your instructor and method of delivery a good match for trainees? How do you know?
  7. Plan small, incremental trainings and lay a successful training foundation.
  8. Communicate before, after, and during training – Prepare employees before training, and keep the communication going during and after for greater learning retention and application on the job.
  9. Report and reward – Report what is learned to those in charge. Relate how learning has been applied in the workplace. Reward with certificate of completion, luncheon, ceremony, etc.
  10. Talk it up – Let everyone in the company know about the training, its successes, challenges, and results. Get quotes from employees and managers. Celebrate people who do the learning in your business, and don’t forget to connect to Business Results.

Building a culture of learning isn’t going to happen overnight, so relax and take a longer view! In our next blog post we’ll dive into #1 in a little more detail: Start With The End In Mind.

If you would like to discuss these ten steps in more detail, please do not hesitate to contact me or call my office direct line at 314-539-5309.

About Kathie Chambers

Kathie is a Workforce Solutions Group Senior Project Manager who works across industries with business leaders and training professionals to maximize training effectiveness. Her experience includes training and development in the corporate, manufacturing, public/non-profit sectors, and business management in privately held companies.

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