People make up the backbone of every organization. Products and services do not make themselves, nor do they evolve on their own. It is the people that make those things happen when they bring their skill, values, and vision to work.
There is a tendency for companies to skip doing assessments and jump straight into designing training videos, job aids, or organizing facilitated sessions with training specialists. But in order for learning to take place, companies must embrace a culture that supports learning and innovation.
Here are some ways that organizations can improve their learning culture:
- Promote your values: Performance issues aren’t always related to training. If your company’s values and vision are ill-defined, employees will feel less inclined to stand behind the company. Make your people care about what you do by showing them what you stand for. They will be more willing to strive for excellence if they believe in your cause.
- Make learning on the job continuous: Learning happens over time. After a training session, follow up on the team’s status, set up reminders, and encourage discussions on the topic. Space out these micro-events to help reinforce the learning.
- Encourage interdepartmental collaboration: Allow employees from different teams to share some of the challenges they are facing, and insights on what they’ve learned. Allow them to identify areas for improvement. Make these discussion groups focused to avoid getting sidetracked. Also, leverage social platforms to help facilitate these discussions.
- Involve the end-users: It never ceases to amaze me how often leaders and designers make decisions (related to training or anything else) without involving the very people whose work these decisions will impact. This approach defies the principles of adult learning, where learning is learner-centred. Allow the end-users to participate in the problem-solving process. Listen to them to understand what works for them. They will be more inclined to use new methods if they had a role to play in their formulation.
- Reward people for learning: Employees complain about not having time to learn on the job. Why should they feel guilty or unproductive when engaged in learning? Instead, reward them for partaking in these activities knowing that it is for the benefit of the company.
- Beware of ‘Let’s just get it done’: The more we get done, the faster we do it, the more productive we are – right? Actually, the process is equally important as the result. If we are unwilling to invest the time, effort and care necessary to do assessments, explore options, do testing and refine our work, then we run the risk of wasting time and money on producing things that don’t make much difference.
These are just some of the ways organizations can improve their culture to support learning and innovation in the workplace.
Invest in your people, and take the time to do things right. All of this, of course, requires an openness to change. And remember, innovation isn’t just about technology, it’s also about how we approach solving problems on the human level.