The work culture of an organization is primarily influenced by its values, beliefs, and people. Values and beliefs typically translate into company processes and policies which define the way of working of the organization.
When it comes to creating a learning culture, it is again driven by what the company believes in, in terms of keeping up with the overall competencies across the company, providing employees adequate opportunities to learn, provide flexibility to learn, etc.
One of the challenges every organization is facing globally to create the pull factor when it comes to learning. In this content, it is worth noting the three factors Daniel Pink speaks about in his book “The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us”. The three factors he speaks are – Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose.
Let’s understand what each of these factors really mean to an individual. Autonomy gives a lot of freedom and freehand to what one wants to do and achieve. Mastery is where an individual wants to move from a certain skill level to a much higher level. And lastly, for an individual Purpose is all about understanding why he/she should do certain activities or a task, understand the rationale behind it before executing the task.
Let’s look at what happens when it comes to expecting employees to learn and grow. Imagine we empower employees by providing them with an e-learning license which opens access to thousands of online courses for them; in other words, we are giving autonomy to the employees to decide what they want to do with this free access. In most of the cases what happens is that employees get lost in what they should pick and learn. Since it is coming for free, it never becomes their priority to invest some time and effort to define a learning regime and goals for themselves. It typically ends up with someone from the L&D team sending several reminders to the employees requesting them to complete at least a certain number of learning hours in a stipulated time. In this entire process, what is happening is, despite giving the Autonomy to the employees, they still need a push. That is where Purpose plays a very critical role.
Take the same set of employees, provide them with the right career guidance in terms of the skills they need to pick up in the next say 6 months to be able to stay relevant and get onto more exciting projects! For any individual to be motivated to learn and acquire a new skill (cross skill) or to upgrade themselves to the next level of competency (up-skill), it is imperative that they know the answer to “why” they should acquire that skill. Once they are convinced about the expected outcome and benefits of this learning journey, they will be a lot more committed and motivated. In this frame of mind, they will not require any push, on the other hand, they would go an extra mile to complete the required learnings on or even before time. So, the sense of Purpose really drives them to achieve the desired goals.
Now let’s understand the third factor, that is Mastery, which is another motivating factor for employees to achieve a certain level of expertise through learning. This is again closely coupled with the Purpose motif. Once an employee understands the purpose of why he/she should get to the next level of Expertise, which may translate into a bigger role, promotion, skill premium, or any other important assignment, he/she will be a lot more motivated to go that extra mile.
In nutshell, one can not only focus on Autonomy and outlook the other two factors. Every factor is critical and needs to be well balanced in order to get to the desired outcomes.
In fact, if these three factors are well understood and balanced, compensation or remuneration becomes a secondary factor. If we look at the Open Source Software community, it is primarily driven by a large population of people who are willing to provide their services and expertise for free! While they do their regular job, they are willing to do this at no cost because perhaps it is more challenging. Same philosophy can be applied here as well, to understand why would someone get motivated to do something for free, because it gives them freedom / autonomy doing what they would like to do, it helps them develop expertise in specific domain/technology and there is this noble purpose of contributing to the intellectual community to make a difference to the society.
If companies can build their learning strategies around these three factors – Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose, the probability to build a truly learning culture across the organization will be very high. This would work well when it comes to specific training and certification programs, which also needs a lot of investment.
Now from the organization’s perspective, if a new learning initiative needs to be rolled out, which would positively impact creating a learning culture, one of the factors which would play a key role is the Purpose. Clarifying and communicating the purpose creates a pull and motivates people to adapt the change. Few other factors organizations need to adopt is the rewarding and recognizing employees who achieve a certain level of expertise through continuous learning and certifications.
Organizations could educate their employees on some of the behaviours and habits which have a significant impact on the company values and beliefs. This could be done through byte-sized learnings in the form of periodic short communications, videos, posters, etc. to bring in positive changes in employees’ behaviour.
Usage of learning apps, gamifications and use of AI and ML to personalize learnings could also act as a catalyst in creating a positive learning culture.
To summarize, in order to create a learning culture in the organization, it is important to create the right, conducive environment where employees are willing to learn proactively without being pushed. The philosophy of Autonomy-Mastery-Purpose should be adopted while driving the learning programs across the competencies with the right use of tools and technologies to bring in the desired change in employee’s behaviours, habits and skills.