In the current climate, Tess and Claudia could be forgiven for adapting their catchphrase to say “Keep learning”. In our new normal, learning will become even more critical to us all and, specifically in a work context, it will make the difference between many businesses surviving or not.
Even a cursory reflection on what has happened this year highlights the importance of learning to how we live and work. When lockdown struck, we quickly needed to learn. Staying safe whilst successfully continuing to work has really depended on our ability to learn and adapt our behaviour. Implementing government and medical advice, becoming more adept at home-working and virtual interactions, even ordering an avocado online or juggling work and home-schooling are all examples.
Therefore, with this pandemic far from over, and the significant challenges to businesses all too real, companies must consciously keep “learning” front and centre; helping their staff to learn and adopt new or developed behaviours. The most successful businesses will be those that provide an environment in which all staff can be their best. This includes, but goes way beyond, more effective virtual working; it is about embedding and growing a culture of learning in which everyone can develop both existing and new skills required to deliver high performance in the new normal.
Of course, the idea of a “learning culture” isn’t new, it’s just that it is more important than ever. At its heart, businesses with effective learning cultures are those where people collaborate, share and grow together to harness their collective power resulting in better personal and business outcomes. All of which begs the question, how do you successfully embed a learning culture? Based on my experiences partnering with clients, these are the key enablers:
- Collective responsibility – It is everyone’s responsibility to champion and engage in learning. Leaders need to set the tone by role-modelling and promoting learning and by holding others accountable for implementing theirs. Incorporating a focus on personal learning and growth into the wider business culture further strengthens its impact; vehicles like Company Values and Performance Management processes can embed learning into the fabric of the business.
- Help people “learn how to learn” – It is only when people truly understand that the most effective learning involves a series of different but complimentary activities, then they can maximise their learning potential.
- Focus – targeting learning and growth activities specifically on areas that will make the biggest difference for each audience. For example, upskilling customer/client facing staff with critical new skills or addressing gaps in leadership or management capabilities. Such an approach makes it easier for people to learn, allowing them to concentrate on applying a few new skills or behaviours at a time. Once successfully achieved, the focus can shift to address new areas.
- Promote learning in all its guises – We learn in so many ways and every experience is a learning opportunity. From formal approaches, such as virtual classroom, e-learning, articles, videos, to experiential “on the job” opportunities and even collaborative learning with colleagues.
- Recognise people – Use simple, authentic ways to positively acknowledge when people apply their learning and adopt new behaviours.
Let me finish where I started with Strictly Come Dancing. The accelerated growth journey for all on the show reflects what is possible when there is a strong culture of learning. The winner, as in business, is likely to be the one that learns the most and applies it best.
So like him or her… “keep learning”…