In the last decade, the face of corporate learning has changed dramatically. Organizations all over the world have begun to invest millions of dollars in corporate learning & truly believe that learning can drive career progressions, skills transformation & thus business results. At the same time, one of the biggest challenges that L&D professionals face in developing a learning culture is the lack of interest from managers.
As per the LinkedIn 2020 Workplace Learning report, 49% of Talent Developers believe that their topmost challenge is getting managers to make learning a priority for their teams. Why is it important? When managers don’t view learning as a priority, their teams don’t see merit in investing time to build & strengthen the skills either. Hence, there’s a lot of push on learning interventions that generate equally high interests, but lead to inconsequential learning.
Now, let’s look at it differently. When we think of capability development, we focus ‘more’ for teams who demonstrate an appetite for learning, and use a bandage approach to drive learning in pockets where there is low/no demand thinking of problems, barriers or challenges. While this works in the short-term, it requires a different approach to sustain the effect.
Learning happens on its own when you build an eco-system that encourages people to think, reflect & learn. Learning then becomes a part of organization culture & runs as a well-oiled machine.
An effective & simple way to start building a learning culture is to change the conversation in the team. Often, our dialogue revolves around – what we will accomplish, when are we targeting that, and how we will do that. The follow-up conversations then invariably focus on efforts & outcomes that lead to redefinitions & recalibration.
Do we spend time in figuring out – what new skills we would develop as part of that, what we could have done better, what we learnt & how can we translate our experience in common knowledge. This is easier to do than it seems. All you need to do is to change the conversation.
Let’s look at five easy questions that you can ask your team to build this learning culture.
What are you learning nowadays?
Often, culture shifts towards the direction of leadership winds. When there is a leadership focus on something, it automatically becomes the talk of the town. To bring learning to mainstream, leaders must begin asking each other and their teams: ‘what are you learning’?
What capabilities do we need to get to our goals?
Often when we think of high-stakes projects or interesting ideas, we form a team of employees who are dependable, performers & demonstrate a will to achieve. These personal attributes are backed by a host of capabilities that get developed over a period of time. The next time, when you form a team or assign team members to new projects, ask yourself & others – what capabilities are needed to achieve the business outcomes, in consideration. Initiate a dialogue on the subject. Let everyone think of that for a moment, and then go about business as usual.
What did you do better & how?
No matter how much everyone talks of the importance of ‘failures’, we all are drawn to success stories more. Like ‘failures’, success stories are also a hub of learning. How? The next time, you have a closure meeting or a review, include a section on what were the in-project realisations that led you to winning results. May be, someone was investigating every development issue that came. Or probably you adopted an ‘Agile Framework’. Or you could deliver the project on time because you spent time in putting together a customer engagement strategy & reviewed it every 4 weeks. Translate your best practices to common knowledge.
How are you preparing yourself for the next career move?
Managers & leaders usually go in a prescription mode while discussing careers of their teams focusing on individual’s strengths & development areas. Couple this with a qualifying question the next time you have a career discussion. Ask your team member/ colleague – how they are going to work on their career goals & what skills & capabilities would they need to make that jump.
What am I capable of, and what more I want to do?
A lot of learning happens on-the-job, in bursts of time, in the flow of work. Why? Because you learn when you are either stuck & wants to get better at something, or you are curious & want to know more. In both cases, there’s an implied interest. In every six-nine months, we should all ask ourselves – what are our skills & what more do we want to develop / hone.
By asking some or all of these five questions frequently, leaders begin a dialogue on capabilities, that will eventually lead to changes in behaviour and the creation of a learning culture.
Yamini Gupta is an L&D professional, with ten years experience in the development of learning content as well as leading corporate initiatives in capability development.