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Blog : Creating a culture of learning and development


Creating a culture of learning and development

By Caroline Cooper, learnpurple associate

When business is tough it’s often learning and development (L&D) that’s the first thing to be removed from the priority list.  However investing in your team, especially during periods of economic instability, can actually pay dividends. It ensures your people feel valued, leads to better employee engagement and motivation, and can help establish a reputation as a great employer, enabling you to attract the best people. All of which are powerful tools to have when business picks up.

Establishing a L&D culture is key to this success. However when budgets are tight, how can this be achieved at low / no-cost? Here are my top tips for doing so:

  • Make it part of the job

Build development into everyone’s role so they take responsibility for own development. Also, start as you mean to go on by ensuring everyone receives a clear learning schedule and L&D is addressed in a thorough induction.

  • Develop managers and leaders

Give managers and leaders the skills and confidence to carry out their L&D responsibilities and coach, mentor and support their people. Making this part of their role means it becomes an everyday responsibility and is measured regularly.

  • Accessible to everyone

L&D should be available to everyone so incorporate learning into day-to-day activities. It also shouldn’t be simply a bottom-up approach – it needs backing, guidance, support and coaching all the way through the organisation – making sure what is learnt can be easily actioned. Remember though; everyone has their own preferred learning style so offer a variety of methods to appeal to all.

  • Focus on learning rather than ‘training’

The word ‘training’ conjures up images of people sat in a classroom in a formal setting which does little to excite people; this is why we don’t like to use it at learnpurple.

Using terms like ‘learning’ and ‘development’ opens up far more possibilities in people’s minds and will do a better job of engaging both employees and managers and shifting responsibility of L&D from HR onto the individual; helping them drive their own progress.

  • Be creative with development activities

L&D does not have to be expensive; there are several low / no-cost solutions available to organisations who are willing to be creative with their learning activities.

Job swaps, in-house secondments, mentoring, libraries are all great ways of offering inexpensive development to your people. Use team meetings as an opportunity for learning too; share what you’ve learnt from reading business books or trade magazines, take turns to chair the meetings, recognise experts and ask them to take a ten minute slot.

If you work with suppliers then ask how they can support; often they’d be more than happy to carry out or assist with learning and this will add a whole new dynamic to the subject matter.

And let’s not forget the host of information available through the internet. Make use of online resources, webinars, podcasts and social media to keep knowledge updated and relevant for your workplace.

  • Be clear on what you want to achieve

Having clear objectives makes it easier to find the right development activity, ensures greater buy-in from employees and gives a clear way to measure the return. Think of objectives in actionable terms, i.e. what do you want your people to do differently as a result of the activity?

Have individuals set their own L&D goals; this will inspire them more than put upon goals and encourage them to work harder to achieve. And have them link the objectives to a personal benefit; making the job easier, quicker, safer, more interesting or fun. Identifying ‘what’s in it for them’ will have them engaged from the off.

  • Make learning transferable

Use relevant examples and exercises throughout your L&D programmes to make the transition from theory into practice smoother. And once the learning has been conducted, ensure the necessary resources, time, authority, peer support and opportunities are available to put it into practice.

Next put processes in place to monitor progress, encourage and guide them so the learning is not lost after the first week. Identify challenges and talk about solutions. Continuously offer feedback so people know what’s working well and what needs refining and make sure any mistakes are learnt from.

If you only do three things:

1) Accept people won’t achieve perfection straight off and mistakes are part of the learning process,

2) Equip managers and leaders with coaching and mentoring skills,

3) Make learning an individual responsibility and encourage people to drive their own progress.

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