Building a Learning Culture: 4 Tips for Turning Employees into Learners
Imagine if training was an activity that your employees relished – one that they actually sought out.
Imagine an environment where everyone – from the CEO to the hourly employee – felt empowered to pursue continual learning opportunities, not just to improve performance today, but also to evolve their skills to meet the competencies of tomorrow.
Imagine if employees even viewed ongoing, immersive learning as a core benefit as critical to job satisfaction and competitive compensation as healthcare or retirement benefits.
For organizations where learning and ongoing improvement is paramount – what we call learning cultures – these “what if” scenarios have become reality. These organizations have figured out how to inspire employees to embrace development and training as part of their everyday life and nurture their natural curiosity. They have built cultures that empower employees to thrive and go above and beyond the call of duty.
The Transformation: Employees into Learners
“When people believe they are getting better at what they do, a cycle of growth begins and is self- perpetuating. Employees who are thriving actively seek opportunities to learn and develop, experiment with new ideas to propel their learning forward, and take initiative in developing their careers. They also exhibit more innovative work behavior and creativity.” – SHRM
This is exactly what we mean when we talk about turning employees into learners. This transformation – from learning participant to learning collaborator – is the lifeblood of learning cultures, giving them longevity, legitimacy and purpose. But it’s a difficult transformation to make. Changing cultural mindsets takes time, investment and executive buy-in. It also requires a learner-centric development strategy. But with the right tools in place, L&D can not only accelerate their efforts, but also provide richer, more impacting learning experiences.
Transformation to Learning Culture Tips
Here are four “learning culture tips” that will help your L&D department create more learner-centric experiences, putting you on the path toward turning your employees into learners:
Tip 1 – Make the learning relevant
Andragogy – or adult learning theory – tells us that employees are motivated when they clearly understand the value of learning and development activities. They want to know why something is important before they invest time and energy learning it, and they open up to learning when they think it will help them solve real problems they encounter (or anticipate to encounter) within their role. For learning departments that want to turn employees into learners, it’s critical to make the training relevant. For example, show employees how they can anticipate using a particular course within their everyday job and give them training practice that mimics real-world use, so they can see how the learning might be applied. Also, honor employee’s prior knowledge by giving them ways to test out of or quickly move past the content they already know, so they’re only focusing on the information they have yet to learn.
It’s also important to create learning in formats that employees find most effective. For example, moving away from static representations– like a paper-based training manual – toward something more interactive like enriching videos or AR/VR-enabled training can have a massive effect on the relevancy with which employees view the training.
Tip 2 – Offer opportunities for learner choice/control
When employees have more control over their learning experiences, they not only learn better, but also remain more engaged, motivated and satisfied with their jobs. Giving people more control over their circumstances has even been shown to improve their general wellbeing. Learning programs that offer employees opportunities to make choices – to assert control– are a critical component to turning employees into learners. For example, within our platform, employees can make choices on:
- Feedback – how they receive feedback by toggling on/off our Hint feature based on their unique needs and motivations
- Learning Pathway – how they want to engage with the content. They can read it, watch it, jump straight into practice assessments or do a combination of all three.
- Remediation – how they wish to self-remediate their particular areas of weakness. They can go back and re-read or re-watch content, or they can continue taking practice assessments until they demonstrate more complete mastery. However they choose to shore up their weak areas is up to them.
Tip 3 – Build skills and provide mastery experiences that deepen confidence
The pursuit of application-level mastery is what a culture of learning is all about. Organizations with strong learning cultures encourage employees and leaders to master all aspects of their role – including those that fall outside of training that’s “mandated”. They also prepare employees for the future by helping them develop skills that will propel their careers forward and meet evolving business needs. A few of the best ways we’ve found to effectively build skills and give employees greater confidence are:
- A competency-based approach that allows employees to develop mastery of fundamental concepts before they move on to more complex information. (And conversely, allows employees who have strong base knowledge to quickly move past content they’ve already learned.)
- Low-risk practice and elaborated feedback that provide mastery experiences – or moments of success within learning. These mastery experiences are directly tied to an employee’s confidence in their competency. The more they practice the more success they experience. And the more success they experience, the more confident they become.
- Optimal challenge, or ensuring that employees get content that’s at the appropriate level of difficultly for them (not too hard and frustrating, but not too easy and a seen as a waste of time – ideally, just above their comfort zone), keeps employees engaged in the learning, gives them more opportunities to experience success and boosts their motivation to fully master the content.
Tip 4 – Make learning a core part of performance feedback
Finally, the learning has to matter. We’re not just talking about knowledge application or personal growth. Employees have to understand that what happens in learning – their engagement, their behavioral metrics and their ability to apply training once they’re back on the job – is all a part of their overall job performance, and will be evaluated as such. This is one of the reasons that we’ve made it easy to integrate our predictive learning analytics into larger performance management and employee feedback systems.
If you’re tired of imagining what a learning culture might be like in your organization, and you’re ready to begin building a culture of learning, these “learning culture tips” can help. Let’s connect. With a short demo, we’ll show you how our adaptive, personalized software can help build a successful culture of learning through learner-centric training that turns employees into learners. We’ll also highlight our new Snapshot product – the right tool for L&D departments looking to identify knowledge gaps and simplify the training needs assessment process.