Many organizations today declare that they are seeking to transform their culture. My guess is that this happens because of the generational shift and the overall changes in the world around us. It’s companies that constantly transform that make it to the top.
We don’t connect, function and communicate like we did only a decade ago. Far from me to debate whether this is a positive development or a negative one, it is here and the only constructive way to go about it is to adapt. Changing an organizational culture is anything but easy and those who embark on such a quest seem well aware of it.
One of the most sought after goals is implementing continuous learning as a core value within the company. It’s an ambitious objective, especially with turnover rates constantly increasing. Investing in training and development, allowing for informal learning and supporting top talent to gain more competencies seem pointless endeavors. However, failing to implement a continuous learning culture is what will lead to poor performance and even higher turnover rates.
3 Steps towards a continuous learning culture
Although the process is a lengthy one and adjustments will most probably need to be made, there are three major steps to take in order to make such a cultural change occur.
Design a plan that is objective-driven
Whenever we are talking about any transformation within an organization, there are obviously going to be costs. Furthermore, as a general rule, change is not easily accepted and implemented; therefore it needs to get support from all the major decision makers and informal leaders. These people have one thing in common – they desire to guide their teams to success so making sure that they are all well-aware of the benefits of such a transformation is step one in starting the process.
Challenges should be taken into consideration right off the bat and a comprehensive blueprint of what, when and how needs to happen ought to find its way to the inboxes of all those concerned. It’s important to weigh the impact of the change against the challenges this will pose.
The outcomes of implementing a continuous learning culture are obviously positive enough to be worth the trouble but putting everything in numbers will increase the chances of gaining genuine buy-in from top and middle management.
Communicate, communicate, communicate
It’s a wonderful age when you can find out the weather forecast for your precise location in a matter of seconds, you can learn about what is going on in any corner of the world and you can instantly learn the name and artist of the song playing on the radio. Information comes at us from every possible angle, it is everywhere, sometimes even overwhelmingly so.
Letting employees know about the transformation in organizational culture is easy because there are so many wonderful ways of disseminating information. From official emails to workshops, team meetings, posters and company newsletters, they should all convey the same message. Consistency is key so the internal communications team must bring their A game and make sure that the message sounds and looks the same on all channels.
It is best if the campaign has a distinct (and catchy) slogan, a good visual identity (perhaps even a mascot) and most important – a sponsor. Since the change itself is a major one, the sponsor should be somebody very important in the organization in order to convey the proper magnitude.
Also, since communication is not a one way street, asking for feedback and incorporating that in the change process can only be beneficial.
Provide tools and opportunity
Implementing a continuous learning organizational culture has a lot to do with shaping a proper frame of mind. Even from the recruitment stage, HR professionals should be on the look-out for employees with a genuine desire to learn and grow.
The onboarding program should also focus a lot on this, letting new-hires know that the company not only encourages but also appreciates those who seek constant improvement. Embedding a presentation of the learning opportunities into the onboarding program will ensure people realize that it’s not just a statement that sounds good but a genuine company objective.
A rich online library, access to professional platforms where people can ask questions and share their own experiences together with acceptance of all forms of informal learning are prerequisites to implementing continuous learning.
Since the goal is to have people better themselves constantly (not at set dates and in specific areas of expertise) e-learning is obviously the sensible way to go.
Learning is part of human nature so even before starting the transformation any organization (that is obviously made out of people) is learning. Some may argue that since this is happening, the effort to implement such a strategy is rather pointless. That is not a particularly constructive approach.
Taking the time and spending the resources to change the whole organizational culture and make it a continuously learning one will not only attract better talent but also lower retention rates and increase employee engagement. People like being recognized for their achievements and a company that puts competency development first will surely not fall behind in reaching its other objectives – market share, revenues or customer reviews.
Investing time and resources in making the shift towards a truly learning organization is not a trend, nor is it optional at this point — it’s a market requirement.
Raluca Cristescu is a Faculty of Letters graduate with over ten years of experience in corporate training, focused mainly on soft skills for customer service and direct sales.