Our capacity to continuously learn is one of the things that makes humans capable of the most incredible feats. We would never have made it to the moon without it, or cured deadly diseases, or developed life-saving technologies, or discovered new species. Whatever our faults, if humans commit to learning, we have the potential to achieve things beyond our wildest dreams.
This isn’t limited to the scientific fields either—whenever groups of people place value on learning, support it and invest resources and time into encouraging it, the potential of what they can do expands immensely. This is what it means to have a culture of learning, and it can do wonders for any organisation.
What kind of wonders, you ask? These are just a few of the benefits of a culture of continuous learning:
• More satisfied team members
• Higher productivity and efficiency
• Better mindsets among team members
• An increased sense of accountability
• Improved capacity for adaptation
A culture of continuous learning can not only make your workplace a space of growth and personal development for individual team members but also have a long-term impact on the growth and development of the organisation.
Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can instil a culture of continuous learning in your organisation.
#1: Make Learning a Core Value
Employees can tell when something is valued by their organisation—it will guide the decisions of managers and motivate resource allocations. If you only claim to value learning but don’t do anything practical to reflect this, nobody is going to be fooled—and nobody is going to learn. If you want your organisation to have a real culture of continuous learning, its leaders have to be committed to the value of learning and take actions that show how important it is. This means spending time and resources on the organisation’s learning and allowing learning and curiosity to have influence over how the company makes decisions.
#2: Create Personalised Learning Plans
If you want to ensure that learning is a concrete part of your organisation’s culture, the easiest way to do this is by formalising it into training programs, and the best way to do this is to make them individualised. This makes sure that each team member is having their learning needs met, and by making it a personalised learning plan, their learning becomes relevant to them and thus more engaging and more helpful for the company as a whole.
#3: Give Feedback
In a culture of learning, it is important for team members to have a good grasp of their strengths and weaknesses, their potential and their limitations, so that they know what they are doing well and where they need to improve. One of the best ways to ensure a healthy self-awareness and motivation for improvement is by providing regular, constructive feedback that can build team members up and encourage them to learn more and better themselves.
#4: Continuously Evaluate
The success of your training programs are hinging on them (1) meeting the needs for development as scoped by the organisation (“Are we training people in the right areas?”) and (2) being designed in a way that makes them appealing to participants and effective in driving change (“Are we training people in the right way?”). In order to establish whether your programs have successfully met these criteria, the organisation must be willing to regularly evaluate the training. This can be done in a range of ways, both quantitative (e.g. assessing ROI) and qualitative (e.g. asking staff about their experience and results).
#5: Reward Continuous Learning
Just as feedback is needed for knowing where you are going well and where you need to improve, it is important to reward team members for displaying curious and learning behaviour in the workplace, even when it seems to make things less efficient. Speaking up with contrary ideas, challenging existing structures and critical thinking can appear to make organisational processes more disorganised and time-consuming, but they are often symptoms of a thriving culture of continuous learning and growth, and there should be systems in place that reward this kind of innovative attitude.
#6: Use Peer-to-Peer Learning
An organisation works best when its members have the same interests at heart and are willing to co-operate to strive towards those interests. Thus, an important part of an organisational culture of learning is an environment that encourages knowledge to be shared among team members. This will not only improve innovation by exposing knowledge to a variety of different perspectives, but also create a stronger team that can grow and develop in the light of disagreements, and which identifies and embraces change and opportunities.
#7: Lead by Example
One of the biggest influences on the behaviour of team members is the behaviour of their leaders. If you really want the people in your organisation to value learning and make efforts to learn and grow themselves, you will need to practice what you preach and dive into your own journey of learning. Take your own steps to improve and learn more—and make this known to the people you work with. That way, team members will see the benefits of what you’re doing and feel more secure in taking that first step into learning. Show them that learning is something that doesn’t stop when you reach a certain point but is something that is always of benefit because learning itself is valuable.
There are, of course, many ways to instil a culture of continuous learning in an organisation, and it’s up to you to decide which ways will work best for the people you work with. But the important thing is to recognise the value of learning and take active steps to encourage a healthy learning environment that will benefit both the organisation as a whole and each individual personally.