Maggie BleharSeptember 26, 2022
Topics: Employee Experience

Cultivating a Company Culture Where Employees Learn & Thrive

Today’s workers want to learn new skills in order to grow and evolve in their careers, with 94% of employees saying they would stay at a company longer if they offered learning and development opportunities.

So how can organizations provide meaningful opportunities for growth that will have employees staying for the long haul?

Christine Kensey, Senior Director of Global Organizational Effectiveness at Phenom, describes how to weave holistic learning opportunities into the work environment to foster the development of new skills.

Watch the full episode below or read on for key insights, practical examples, and a better understanding of how HR can support a true culture of learning.

Why Employees Aren’t Taking Advantage of Training Programs

Learning & Development (L&D) teams certainly spend a lot of time and effort creating training programs. However, only 36% of employees report feeling engaged with their work and workplace.

So what’s the disconnect between what companies are providing and what employees are experiencing?

“Training” and “learning” often are used interchangeably, Kensey said. But there’s a key difference: training has an endpoint, while learning is a constant cycle of taking in new information, reflecting on how it helps us meet our goals, and applying it to our everyday lives.

“You don’t need a certificate, a new role, or a promotion to grow. What you need are meaningful opportunities to apply knowledge in the flow of work, and engage in conversations with others as you do so,” Kensey said.

Development is the experience, not the destination.

Related reading: Everything You Need to Know About Phenom Explorer

Instilling a Culture of Learning

Embedding a learning culture in the day-to-day work experience requires a mindset shift around ownership and accountability, where everyone is responsible for employee learning.

It’s not about creating more content for people to consume, rather, “it’s about creating intentional spaces for learning,” Kensey explained. This helps to ensure employees reflect, assess, and grow continuously.

Here are ways to do that:

  • Connect existing training content to skills and competencies employees want to develop.
  • Help employees practice what they learned through real work or short-term gigs.
  • Provide continuous feedback to enhance learning outcomes.
  • Maximize learning through reflective practices like coaching and mentoring to ensure continuous growth.

Related reading: Driving Employee Engagement with Gigs and L&D

Creating Learning Moments

Kensey went further to illustrate just how employers can apply the above points.

1. Reflect with mentors

Managers can encourage employees to view short-form educational content, like podcasts or TED talks, and then meet 1:1 or with their assigned mentor. Having employees reflect on what was learned, brainstorm how to implement take-aways, set short-term goals for improvement, and track their own progress all encourage a growth mindset.

After that, “future meetings can be used to build on successes, review challenges, and continue through the learning cycle.”

HR teams can help managers by curating some of the content and providing mechanisms for managers to share resources they source, create, or use on their own. They should also “ensure everyone has access to the tools needed to facilitate ongoing mentoring sessions and track individual goals.”

2. Scale learning for larger groups

Managers can create learning spaces for teams by having employees complete on-demand e-learning in advance, and then bring people together to collaborate on real business problems. Providing the learning content first enables deeper learning once people are together, allowing them to reflect on what they’ve learned more holistically.

How can HR help in this scenario? By surfacing the right training content to match the skills and competencies that employees want to develop for their career goals and removing any barriers that would prevent employees from accessing content.

Related reading: Skill Disruption: What Is It and What Does It Mean for HR?

How to Promote Learning in the Flow of Work

You can help employees learn in real time by matching them with gigs, cross-functional projects, or stretch assignments — paired with retrospectives or coaching sessions to let employees reflect.

These benefit both the organization as a whole and individual employees by:

  • Breaking down silos
  • Improving knowledge sharing
  • Moving at the speed of business
  • Facilitating organizational learning and increased productivity

HR’s involvement is critical here, Kensey said. “They serve as business partners to the leaders and teams as they define gig opportunities.” HR should communicate processes and policies around gig work, and ensure everyone has equal access to opportunities through tools and systems.

Why Managers Are Integral to a Learning Culture

Creating a culture of learning starts with leadership. Remember the point that for a culture of learning to succeed, everyone needs to take responsibility? Managers play a big role here.

“The learning happens in the doing, and that’s where you need managers,” Kensey said.

Here are some ways to get team leaders fully on board with sustaining a learning culture at your company:

  • Hire managers who see the value in learning and align with your vision for employee development.
  • Train managers to have a coaching mindset.
  • Give managers ongoing training so that they can continue to learn and evolve themselves and understand how to provide learning experiences for their teams.
  • Encourage managers to celebrate learning moments.

Marketing Learning

While it’s true that people say they want learning and development opportunities, that doesn’t mean they’ll seek it out on their own. “The reality is that the day-to-day can make it hard for people to come up for air and focus on the long-term value, like working on their development,” Kensey said. “We have to sell them on this value.”

That’s why marketing your learning opportunities is just as important as marketing your brand, services, and open positions. Not to mention, it also helps communicate positive impact to leaders responsible for resource allocation and budget.

Spotlight your learning culture by:

  • Sharing stories and testimonials. Who has experienced career growth as a result of learning? What were the outcomes and impacts?
  • Hosting internal events to help employees understand career pathing and internal mobility opportunities.
  • Making opportunities accessible to all employees. Ensure employees know where to go to find opportunities and equip them with the right tools and technology to facilitate the work.

People Want to Learn

It’s important to keep in mind that learning is a natural human instinct. When HR can apply the above strategies in a way that lets people follow that instinct, everyone benefits.

“Creating a learning culture where employees can thrive is about leveraging that natural instinct to learn by creating intentional spaces where we can collaborate, communicate, and evolve together,” Kensey concluded. “Our job as practitioners is to design the experiences that move people forward with intention, and know how to support them along the way.”

Learn more about how the right tech and tools can drive a culture of learning.
Read our Definitive Guide to Employee Experience.

Maggie Blehar

Maggie is a writer at Phenom, bringing you information on all things talent experience. In addition to writing, she enjoys traveling, painting, cooking, and spending time with her family and friends. 

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