The importance of a culture of learning

Many organisations see training as a part of on-boarding new employees, then forget about it. Others have training budget but employees are not actively encouraged to use it or simply don’t know how to access it.

Research conducted by Recognition PR client Firebrand shows that employees are concerned about the longevity and appeal of their skills, yet 10 per cent of those surveyed don’t take part in any training or knowledge development whatsoever. Of the people that do take part in training, half undertake it at work and half do it in their spare time.

Most business managers would agree that ongoing development is valuable both for employees and for the business. Investment in training pays off through staff that are more highly-skilled and feel as though their contribution to the organisation is valued. Staff that receive ongoing training and development are less likely to stagnate, get bored, be unmotivated at work and eventually leave.

Ongoing training and development opportunities can also be a good incentive for high-performing talent to join a company. Yet Firebrand’s research revealed that less than a quarter (23 per cent) of businesses provide financial support for academic and professional qualifications.

Human nature also means that employees won’t necessarily always be proactive about pursuing these opportunities. An effective way to overcome this and to improve a business’s overall performance is to foster a culture of learning.

When you make learning an important part of your business culture it can take on a life of its own. It can change the way employees interact with each other and leads to a more collaborative environment. It can also change the way they talk about failures, making them more likely to discuss failures openly in the interests of sharing the lessons and avoiding future mistakes. A culture of learning is reflected in strong communication and an overall improvement in both productivity and the quality of work done.

At Recognition PR, Outsource and Write Away Communication + Events, we foster a culture of learning in seven key ways:

1. Weekly team meetings and insights. Each of our teams meets weekly to share successes, discuss issues and develop ideas. In addition I send a weekly email to the group around a key theme. For example, at the moment our theme is time management and productivity so each week the team receives an email that includes a tip, some independent research, advice or insights.

2. Monthly group meeting and case studies. The entire group meets monthly to present case studies and share knowledge more broadly across all three teams. This reinforces the learning culture across the entire group. It is also an opportunity to remind staff that there is a training budget available and plenty of support for those wishing to pursue further study.

3. Lunch and learn sessions. Held over lunch, these sessions let the team share insights and knowledge with each other. These sessions focus on topics that are relevant to different teams across the business. They vary from account management to time management and writing best practices. Often when new team members join we’ll also run refresher sessions to make sure everyone benefits.

4. Quarterly book club. Every quarter we chose a book that everyone reads which has relevance to our daily jobs. We meet over lunch to discuss the book and what we’ve learned from it, including whether there are any new policies or procedures that should be implemented as a result of what we’ve learned. If the author is local we invite him or her to attend and be part of the discussion.

5. Industry education. We hold regular, free, lunchtime sessions for the industry. Topics include how to generate more media coverage, how to nurture leads more effectively, or how to use social media more effectively in a B2B context. Our teams also attend these sessions where relevant.

6. Post graduate study subsidies. We provide generous study leave entitlements as well as subsidising the cost of further education. Our training budget is easily accessible and we encourage staff to attend relevant courses to increase their skills. We also have a strong focus on mentoring younger staff, with more senior staff taking responsibility for ensuring they constantly share knowledge with less experienced employees.

7. Personal career goals. Our HR system is structured around each individual’s personal career aspirations. Based on this and our career matrix, which outlines the steps to develop into each role in the business, we work with individuals to develop their personal goal management system.

This focus on learning has delivered countless benefits over the years and will continue to be a very important part of our culture.

Is a culture of learning and development a key part of your business?

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