Research shows that the millennial generation – now pretty much the biggest workforce generation – has an innate thirst for learning.
This means that if you can’t get the eager-beaver millennial generation too learn, then this a sure sign that something is wrong in your organisation: it looks like you’ve failed to create a learning culture.
Learning culture’s matter, because not only will it help you to attract top talent, it will give you a competitive advantage.
“Companies that learn fastest and adapt well to changing environments perform the best over time,” say Edward Hess, a professor of University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business.
An under-developed learning culture is nothing to be embarrassed about.
It’s the norm.
According to Thomas Handcock, senior director at the Corporate Executive Board in London, only around 1 in 10 companies have a true learning culture, defined as, ‘a culture that supports an open mindset, an independent quest for knowledge, and shared learning directed towards the mission and goals on the business’.
So, where does your organisation fit?
Are you failing to build a learning culture?
If so, here’s 6 reasons why that might be the case.
1. A Blame Culture Reigns
When mistakes are made in the business does blame and recrimination follow?
Blame cultures vary in their severity, but they are the antithesis of a learning culture.
If a blame culture exists in your business, your employees will not want to admit mistakes and may even conceal them.
They will also not be comfortable disclosing weaknesses, (or areas that need improvements), for fear that this will be held against them should they actually make a mistake.
They might even fear that admitting that they need help may lead to them being dismissed from their jobs.
In blame cultures, learning will be viewed as a sign of weakness, (not adaptability as it should be seen), and a result, staff will be less open to raising their head above the parapet and voluntarily attending training.
When organisations view mistakes and weakness as a golden opportunity for learning, growth and adaptation, (not blame), a learning culture can be born.
2. Learning Programmes Are Rigid
Does your training offering resemble a fixed training programme, composed of highly structured and scheduled, off-site learning courses, of 1 or more days in length?
This pseudo-academic form of class-room learning is rapidly becoming outdated: the modern time-pressurised professionals finds this form of learning to be inconvenient and impractical and in complete in conflict with their busy, changeable schedules.
Blocking out 1,2 or even 3 days for training can be highly impractical and stressful.
This can lead to low participation rates and high cancellation rates.
If learners do attend, engagement and retention levels can be severely compromised as they remain distracted by work issues.
When learning programmes are flexible, time-pressurised employees can fit their training around their working schedule and a learning culture can prevail.
3. Learning Content is Not Accessible
Research from the Chartered Management Institute found that two-third of employers block access to sites deemed irrelevant to the job.
Some organisations only give access to their online learning platform and YouTube at best. Most don’t create any bespoke elearning content either.
However, when the institute interviewed managers aged under 35 working in industry, the survey found that young managers wanted to use the internet for research, professional development, and for day to day job fixes, but were being hampered by a restrictive internet policy that blocked learning resources and even restricted internet access to certain times old day.
If you have a restrictive internet policy that hampers learning rather than actively encouraging it, this is probably a chief reason for your failing learning culture.
By encouraging staff to use the internet as a learning resource and giving staff more say in the selection and validation of learning resources you could start a learning revolution in your business.
4. Learning Is Seen As Irrelevant and a Distraction From Real Work
Do you find that one of the most common barriers to getting people to learn in your organisation, are being too busy, (with work)?
This could be a sign that learning is a not seen as relevant in your organisation.
Staff don’t believe it will really help them to do their job, and this it’s a distraction from real work.
If your employees do not believe that the training you have on offer will benefit them in their work – and in fact it may only make them fall further behind – you will not be able to develop a learning culture.
Learning will always be a second class citizen in your organisation.
The best way to build relevancy to your training is to invest in ‘just-in-time’ on demand learning.
By creating such immediacy around learning and giving your staff access to a library of on-demand elearning content, you can create an almost surgical relevancy around learning.
Let’s say your staff are struggling with overload, then what would be more relevant, accessible, completable, (and therefore highly desirable), than a targeted, 10 minute micro-learning course delivered straight to their mobile about managing acute overload.
5. Learning is Not Recognised and Rewarded
If you want to create a healthy learning culture you’ll need to both recognise and reward.
If taking time away from work results in little more than missing work targets, meaning that staff are actually penalised, then negative reinforcement will reign: staff will be conditioned to avoid training.
By recognising and rewarding training via tools such as learning goals, (linked to pay and bonuses), most improved employees, badges and public leader boards you can turn learning into a valued achievement, helping to build a learning culture.
6. Learning is Not Fun
Would you say that he perception of learning in your organisation is fun and exciting?
Unless you can give an unequivocal yes, there’s a good chance that learning is seen as boring or at least an emotionally dry activity.
This is a huge deterrent to learning and will either have learners heading for the door, or not even opening the door in the first place.
This is backed up by research which shows that staff are much more likely to try out new things if they consider the learning environment to be fun.
Neurological research shows that dopamine, endorphin’s and oxygen are all increased during fun experiences – all things that will boost engagement and learning.
Ensure that learning is associated with fun and entertainment, using things like animations, cartoons, story telling, quizzes, games and social activities and you will promote a positive and enthusiastic learning culture.
Sean is the CEO of Skillshub. He’s a published author and has been featured on CNN, BBC and ITV as a leading authority in the learning and development industry. Sean is responsible for the vision and strategy at Skillshub, helping to ensure innovation within the company.