How to develop a learning culture
10th November 2014
So, you’ve made the wise decision to implement a learning culture in order to develop your employees to their full potential. To cultivate your team within a successful learning environment, there are a few essential components that you need to be aware of before you begin to deliver your training programme.
Today’s employees value a working environment where there is scope for their own personal development and career progression. Attracting and retaining ‘great’ employees is the goal of any business, particularly in today’s transient world where it takes little effort for employees to find out about working for rival companies.
If you provide a workplace that champions success and encourages employee learning, your team will realise that their potential and progression is aligned with your business. No two businesses are the same, and so each learning culture will be different and will focus on different results. However, the basic components for success when developing a learning culture are the same for every organisation.
The stages of self-directed learning
The learning process requires active participation from each employee, rather than simply making new training materials available. In order help your employees become fully engaged with the opportunities offered by workforce training, it’s important to determine which stage in the learning process they are at.
Your employees are all different. And although you have focused on employing great staff members from the start, they will all have different attitudes towards new knowledge and doing training exercises. Broadly you employees will each be at one of the following stages:
Directed learners – These people need a considerable amount of motivation to get them started on their learning journey. They aren’t sure what they should be learning or why. They rely heavily upon being given instructions and often require added incentives or reminders to ensure they do the work required. Essentially they are dependent on a manager or trainer to get them on the right track within the learning process.
Guided learners – This set of people are a little further on are have engaged with the learning content to some extent. However, they still aren’t sure which training materials are important and require assistance in being told what to and when.
Assisted learners - These learners have the ability to direct their own learning to some extent. They can determine what materials will be of use to them and can plan and organize their time to a certain level to ensure they get through the work. The issue here can often be that they aren’t really sure of what the goal of learning is.
Self-directed learners – At the end of the scale we have highly self-directed learners, these people are a big company asset which is highly sought after. This type of learner has the ability to organise and implement their own learning as well as evaluating the outcomes.
Determining at which stage your employees are at prior to beginning company training will help your team to understand specific areas which may need to be monitored. Often it can use useful to use a Learning Management System (LMS) which can track the progress of each person (as well as a lot more).
Put it into context
While you coax your employees towards becoming highly self-directed learners, it’s important to think about the context in which you deliver the training. The ‘learning context’ you choose for your company training can depend on the nature of the business and the needs of your learners. The contexts which are most commonly used within learning range between formal learning, semi-formal learning, non-formal learning and informal learning.
For example a lecture theatre would normally be considered a formal learning environment where as at a colleagues desk would be less formal.
It’s important to deliver your company training in a context which is most suited to your own business, and an environment that your employees are accustomed to. For example, if you are traditionally a very informal company, your learners may not gain all of the benefits from delivering an extremely formal training programme – as this will take them a while to adjust to a new working environment.
Who are your learners?
Your employees fulfill different roles, have different learning needs and more specifically, different learning styles. As adults, whether we are aware of it or not, we all develop our own learning style. It's these varying learning styles that need to be considered throughout the delivery of online training to ensure every employee benefits from the learning content.
Learning styles can be categorised into the following four characteristics – pragmatist, theorist, activist, and reflector. Here's a brief overview of each of these styles, see if you can identify some of your own employees within these descriptions:
Pragmatists are practical and like to experiment with new ideas/theories to solve problems.
Theorists have an analytical and rational approach towards problems and develop step-by-step, logical solutions.
Activists are open-minded and thrive on new challenges and experiences but become bored by long-term implementation.
Reflectors take a back seat in discussion and like to know all of the facts before putting forward their own ideas/thoughts.
These styles also tie into the VARK model, which illustrates the learning styles for acquiring new knowledge. Instructional designers need to understand each of these in order to deliver training experiences that suit each individual's learning profile.
Consider your content
Learning content needs to be designed with the desired outcome in mind. What is it that you want your employees to know or improve on? The majority of businesses want to develop employees with greater knowledge, changed attitudes, new skills or increased aspirations. It's vital that you pinpoint the desired outcome of each module before you begin creating training. This ensures that your company training will be relevant and helpful for your employees.
By thinking about your team, who they are, what you want them to learn and the way that you want them to learn will ensure that you have a clear vision for the future of employee progression. Considering each of these four training components will give your business the building blocks for creating a successful learning culture. By providing your team with continual opportunities for their own learning and development, your business will benefit from a loyal and motivated team which gives your business a competitive edge.