With the rampant uncertainty and rapid change it is often difficult to envision what the future holds. Amidst this dynamism, the right competencies and mindsets can help harness disruption to rethink business models, expand product lines and create new growth opportunities. What sets apart progressive organizations is change agility and adaptability. Learning and change go hand-in-hand, organizations with the right learning ethos become more comfortable with change, and can readily pivot and innovate. This stems from the ability to provide people the freedom to innovate, powered by a strong learning culture. Hence, investing in cultivating the right learning culture is imperative to future success.
Purpose of a learning culture
Digitalization is ever-ongoing, and organizations must bridge the continuous skills gap by developing systems, processes and culture for continuous reskilling of their workforce. Some of the desired outcomes of learning and development are, increasing productivity, improving retention, reducing costs, driving additional revenue streams, and supporting business continuity in times of change. This is achievable only by aligning the learning strategy with business strategy. Moreover, because business priorities keep shifting rapidly, learning must be agile and focus on clear and measurable outcomes. Such an outcome-aligned learning strategy will help develop an understanding of what skills to build and why to build them, and thereby have a future-resilient and future-relevant human capital.
Elements of a learning culture:
To achieve the above, organizations must base the learning strategy on the following:
- Learn how to learn: Leaders must encourage employees to reflect on what they learnt and what they need to learn in the future for current and future success. Similarly, managers should be enabled to become better career coaches. Learning to learn is the starting point for an effective learning culture.
- Give space to people to learn: Udemy follows an initiative called “Drop-Everything-and-Learn” for its employees. A similar focus should be placed on learning across levels, starting at the CEO level, to truly signal that learning is part of the job.
- Facilitate feedback: At Udemy, feedback is fuel. People may need to develop awareness about their own learning needs and preferences and hence need direct feedback. L&D must develop skills and processes to facilitate the giving and receiving of constructive feedback.
- Encourage a growth mindset: When one moves away from a fixed mindset, challenges, obstructions and criticisms become catalysts for innovation. Hence learning culture should espouse a pan-organization growth mindset.
- L&D and HR must work closely with various stakeholders, including CXO suite to imbibe these elements into daily organizational life.
The Leader’s role in driving a learning culture
Learning needs to be imbibed in the daily work so that it is not viewed as an extra activity. For this, senior leaders must first start with learning-for-self i.e. lead by example. L&D can play an influencer role here, by creating organizational learning role models. Having a top-down and bottom-up approach together can ensure proper learning communication in today’s matrixed organizations. The pandemic ushered in a learning transformation such that strategic L&D is no longer relegated to the L&D function, it has become a CXO priority.
A true learning revolution will occur with the right positive push. Learning as a word creates barriers, it tells the human mind that “you do not know”. It is L&D’s job to change this messaging to “motivation to learn”. L&D must find ways to bring learning discussions closer to business, and integrating learning with business processes, to gain mind-space rather than just financial space. Digitalization of learning systems, proactive discussions for business outcomes, and matrices to measure learning impact can help. L&D must shift gear towards an advisory role, creating learning champions, and garnering executive sponsorship and leadership buy-in. At the same time, L&D must don different hats to understand how people connect, engage, learn, and build communities, to keep the learner engagement going. The L&D and HR professionals of tomorrow are sense-makers- their role is to enable people to have the right conversations and role-model the right behaviors by creating an interesting journey for employees while achieving the business outcomes.
(This article is based on a recent People Matters and Udemy Cohort which saw participation from the leading HR leaders from the APAC region).