The How-To: Fostering A Learning Environment In Your Enterprise
Why innovative businesses are obsessed with learning.
With the ever-expanding dominance of technology over all industries, the kind of skills that employers are starting to look for are changing constantly, and employers are expecting their employees to adapt accordingly. The Creativity and Innovation in the MENA poll, conducted by Bayt.com, one of the Middle East's number one job site, shows that as many as nine in 10 jobs nowadays require creativity and innovation. The world of business has never been as fast-paced as it is now, where organizations are required to deliver results at a rate like never before, in order to stay ahead of competition and keep their stakeholders satisfied. Indeed, today, innovation is an essential growth factor.
The good news for companies is that they can leap forward in fostering a learning environment that promotes creativity and innovation. In fact, developing a learning environment also benefits motivation and loyalty: one in three respondents to the Bayt.com Ideal Workplace in the Middle East and North Africa survey (2018) state that training and development opportunities are the key drivers of loyalty after salary. Another 32% of respondents state that opportunities for longterm career advancement are a major motive for staying loyal to their current employer. How can you as an employer form an effective learning culture within your organization?
Here are four actions your company can take to build a strong learning culture:
1. START WITH YOUR OWN LEARNING PROCESS
One way employers these days are keeping pace with the changing nature of jobs is by facilitating a learning culture throughout their organizations, and deeply integrating it in all levels of their talent management processes. Not only can having a learning culture propel your employees into becoming more competent at their jobs, but it also helps elevate their overall morale and feeling of growth, fulfilment, and self-actualization. Constant learning can empower employees both professionally and personally, as it can help them get a hold of opportunities that would have been out of their reach otherwise. Actively tending to employees' desire to learn and grow can help companies grow themselves, as it can give them one of the most sought-after competitive advantages: a knowledge advantage. If organizations want to facilitate and maintain a true learning culture, they must be able to nurture and support their employees' self-determination. They need to make sure that their employees have an independent pursuit for knowledge, and an eagerness to grow and develop alongside their colleagues, and the organization as a whole. An easy way to do it is by asking your managers to lead by example. It is no secret that employees are highly influenced by their leaders. What leaders do and how they do it can highly impact the behavior and performance of their employees. In a learning culture, leaders are expected to be reading and taking courses, and communicating how well they have benefitted them to as many employees as possible. They can do this by sharing articles and books that they have read with their employees, as well as jumping in the deep end on a new project that requires them to learn new skill, and take on tasks that they have no past experience in doing. By doing this, they can inspire their employees to follow suit and do the same, which can ultimately play a role in fueling innovation.
2. FOCUS ON BEHAVIOR AS WELL
Employers need to understand the difference between skills and behaviors, as they are both equally important. Now, when it comes to skills, they are quite direct to learn, develop, and measure, for the most part. An employee can be taught a certain skill such as data analysis through an online course, and then be tested on it to see if they have truly grasped the idea. However, teaching employees to hold certain behavioral traits can prove to be a bit tougher. For example, just instructing your employees not to click on suspicious links while on the web is improbable to be effective if you haven't informed them on how to identify and select what might be suspicious or not. The manager will not only need to inform their employees on the correct and suitable method of identifying suspicious links, but they must impart the significance of such precautionary measures. Likewise, time-management might be a skill to build on, but it can also be impacted by a set of unwanted behaviors, such as irregular sleep schedules or frequent use of social media, that will need to be treated in the most effective way. Managers can reshape the learning process by focusing on altering their employees' behaviors. Both the behaviors that you want, and those you don't, should be clearly distinct and communicated to your employees, which should also fit your overall learning culture, as to generate the results that you seek and build innovation into your strategy.
3. FOLLOW UP WITH EMPLOYEES
Employees taking an online course or reading an article is one thing, but actually applying what they have learned is another. What good is investing so much time and money into facilitating a learning culture if your employees don't even have the chance to practice and apply what they learn? Not only do employees need to be encouraged to learn something new, but they also need to be encouraged to run-through with it. Old methods might seem to be more reliable to them, which can make them quite reluctant to start practicing something new. This is where the leaders need to jump in. It is their job to ensure that the transition takes place, and that the team feels comfortable to experiment or try new processes. A great way to ensure that employees start to incorporate what they have learned in their work functions, is to make sure they comprehend the links between their learning, performance, and output, and follow up with them regularly based on that. There needs to be a clear link between their job responsibilities, learning objectives, and career path. During their regular follow-ups, which can be in the form of appraisals, performance reviews, or daily standing meetings, managers can ask about what their employees have learned, and how they are applying it. What are they doing differently? Has it added value? How was it measured? And what will they try to learn next? This can also give you the opportunity to emphasize the importance of learning and innovation, as well as give meaningful and constructive feedback. At Bayt.com, we take this a step further by connecting learning with rewards. The more you learn, the more entitled you are to earn rewards.
4. HIRE THE RIGHT PEOPLE
Taking a proactive approach when facilitating a learning culture can go a long way. Instead of solely relying on training, developing, and monitoring employees, employers should give equal focus to the recruitment stages. Employers who care about having a learning culture should search for naturally curious and passionate people, and optimize their selection process to find the best fit for their organization and culture. Finding a good fit for the job requirements can help cut training and development needs. At the same time, this applies to finding the right fit for an organization's learning culture, as people who are naturally curious and passionate are usually self-motivated to learn and develop for their own sake, and for the sake of the company, which can make the employer's job that much easier. With this in mind, employers require a large choice of candidates with the correct technologies to help them source and screen talent appropriately. Equally important is talent assessment. Evalufy, an online video assessment tool, offers a great way for employers to truly understand the full potential of candidates. Employers can put their candidates through various video assessments, as well as get to know who they really are and what really drives them. Based on that, employers can make more informed decisions while hiring, which can help them in aligning candidate's passion and interest with the job description and the overall culture of the organization.