March 8, 2013

Building A Workplace Learning Culture


In a previous post I talked about the need to keep informal learning in the workplace truly informal. Another, and even more important, component to successful self education in the workplace is building a learning culture.

What do I mean by a learning culture? Companies and organizations, particularly very large ones, tend to get mired in short-term thinking. Rather than spend the time and money to develop their workforce, they tend to be so focused on short-term objectives that they neglect workforce development.

Right now, as the American economy flounders a bit, it’s easy for this to happen without the ramifications having profound impact. That will change. As the economy improves and the people who have been poised to change jobs start finding other employment, those companies and organizations that have not put effort into improving the knowledge and skills of their employees will be at a big disadvantage. Add to this the aging, retiring workforce and not fostering a learning culture proves even more problematic.

So what is a learning culture? Learning cultures are nothing more than leaders within a workplace making sure that their workers enjoy the following.

  • Learning Guidance. What is it that needs to be accomplished and what learning objectives will help this happen? This is usually the responsibility of good managers.
  • Career Development. What learning opportunities can be presented to workers that will improve their career potential? This also means an organization must accept the risk that an employee will learn things that will help them rise through the ranks in their current workplace or eventually find a better job elsewhere.
  • Learning Resources. What resources at the workplace, or elsewhere, can provide learning opportunities? Knowledge repositories, tuition reimbursements, training programs, social learning and mentoring programs are just some of the possible resources a workplace can offer.
  • Self Education Skills Training. Since most of the learning that takes place within an active and vibrant learning culture is self-directed, providing self education skills training is extremely helpful.
  • Time. Too often a worker feels that they aren’t allowed the time during work hours to pursue learning. It’s one thing for a workplace to say that they foster a learning culture, but to actually allow an employee to carve out time in their day to pursue learning really shows a workforce that the company does support a learning culture.
  • Encouragement. Workers should be encouraged to learn. Learning projects are not something to simply be tolerated. They are vital to the optimal functioning of the workforce. So management must actively encourage such learning.
  • Recognition of Learning. Learning must be recognized. Too often an organization only recognizes formal education, certifications and degrees. Learning cultures rely primarily on self education. So there must be mechanisms in place that officially recognizes all learning. This can be built into the worker’s review cycle or documented in some fashion so that the learning is captured in an official record.

Does your company or organization foster a learning culture? Is there anything you can do to promote this concept?

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