A full time job alone can be difficult to manage. There never seems to be enough hours in the day to get everything done. However, the most effective leaders not only encourage employee learning outside the workplace, but foster an environment which encourages and supports it. In this week’s story, human resources consultant Jean Norman, offers several recommendations to help leaders build an environment of continuous workplace learning.
How Leaders Build a Culture of Continuous Learning in the Workplace
by Jean Norman
Wherever you are in life, learning remains an integral part of growth and development. It should not stop at your college graduation or the moment you settle into a stable job. In the workplace, continuous learning is what ensures constant success. And who better to pave the way for an organization than its leaders? Beyond the textbook definition of a boss, leaders should be the ones to spearhead a culture of learning and improvement. The question is, how do you foster a community that thrives on expanding their knowledge while managing a team? Here are some ideas:
Foster a learning environment
People are only as good as the ones you surround them with, so make sure you encourage each and every team member to learn more and grow as professionals. Before each project, be sure to ask the employee’s specific expectations and goals. What does he or she hope to get from the experience? Afterwards, implement feedback that will highlight both their strengths and points for improvement. Let them ask questions and extend your appreciation for their thirst for knowledge. For a more casual setting, you can even take it outside of the office and plan team activities like a trip to the museum or an art show. This way also promotes a healthy work-life balance, while still contributing to their learning.
Get to know your employees and team
It is not enough to know how to read a name tag. Jo Spurrier of Assessments 24×7 stresses the importance of company-wide assessment. Taking the time to get to know each team member makes them feel valued and more motivated to work. It does not have to mean one-on-one lunches, because even the simple act of reaching out to ask if there is anything they need can lessen tension. Often, employees may refrain from communicating due to fear; so approaching them from your end can help.
Facilitate mentorships and consultations
The Muse reported that a whopping 70% of US workers are not engaged at work, with only a meager 16% of employees actively engaged. These numbers are generally linked to poor working environments and managers who have failed to engage their staff. To combat this, some of the walls between employees and boss must be broken down. It should be part of their job to sit down and discuss goals with employees, offer advice and share their plans for the future, as well as provide their personal perspective if needed.
Utilize company resources and tools
Companies usually have budgets for training initiatives and corporate workshops, but learning does not always have to be that formal. For instance, Google recently revealed that the millennial workforce turns to their phones the most to access information. Unfortunately, some bosses choose to see this in a negative light rather than approach it proactively. To be an effective leader, avoid setting rules against using mobiles at work and figure out ways to encourage their use to promote further learning. Mobile learning can be a powerful tool if used effectively, offering resources such as content libraries, webinars, and learning platforms.
Encourage employees to take their learning further
Once you see potential for an employee to cultivate their interest in a topic, motivate them to learn even more. Some may be discouraged because they have difficulties in balancing work, but thankfully there are now educational innovations to address the issue. Maryville University highlights online courses as a convenient option for professionals currently working full-time. These types of courses are more flexible and can be adapted around full-time employment. Online programs are not as rigid as traditional degrees, and can be easily integrated into an employee’s schedule. However, employees might feel a little lost when it comes to choosing what further education to pursue. This is when a leader should urge them to explore studies that can further their career and help them achieve their goals. In the workplace, cross-training can equip them will valuable skills that will make them more competitive as workers and give them the confidence to help out other colleagues. Other departments they can look into include administration, customer service, marketing, and sales.
Lead by example
Harvard Business Review emphasizes the role of leaders as key drivers in shaping company culture. Ultimately, it is they who act as a shining beacon for employees to follow — from their behavior and beliefs to their attention to resources and daily actions. To put a true value on learning, leaders must walk the walk by injecting development directly into the company ethos. It is up to them to ensure that forward-focused learning is the direction they themselves are going.
About the author: Jean Norman has an extensive background in public sector program delivery and adult education. With her understanding of human pedagogy and public sector approach, she is able to channel these into her work as a human resource consultant for a number of businesses in her home state.