At KnowledgeForce Consulting, we create employee training programs for medium and large businesses. At the heart of our efforts are the employees who participate in these programs as they work together to learn new skills and information.
Participants complete the training an even more cohesive community than when they started. The culmination of their efforts allows them to feel more confident in themselves, connected with each other, and armed with information, strategies and tactics they need to deliver results.
A strong, positive corporate learning culture is at the core of employee and business success. Here are some tips for improving employee engagement throughout your organization by building a culture of learning.
Before we dive into explaining how you can improve your organization’s learning culture, let’s clearly define what the term means.
A corporate learning culture is a collection of organizational conventions, values, practices and processes as they relate to how people learn and continuously develop. These are the practical and often visible displays of a broader learning mindset. A mindset where people are committed to continued development of their knowledge, skills, and abilities.
When companies actively seek to build a learning culture mindset, and when companies invest in their people, business see measurable results. One of those measurable results is increased employee engagement.
Many organizations believe it’s enough to hire the right people. They believe with the right people, in the right job, doing the right things the business will thrive. Companies expend a great deal of time and resources looking for and hiring the best candidates.
They focus their efforts on exploring a candidate’s previous experiences, their knowledge and skill sets, but they often fail to look at a candidate’s ability to embrace one of the most critical employee skills in today’s fast-paced and rapidly changing corporate landscape—the individual’s learning agility.
They don’t assess how an individual’s openness and willingness to continue to learn impacts the future of the organization and their overall engagement at work. However, companies that have strong learning cultures recognize the value of individual and company alignment and work alongside their employees to ensure employees stay engaged.
Companies who have taken specific and actionable steps to build a corporate learning culture have found improvements in many areas of business including reduced turnover, greater engagement, reduced absenteeism, improved efficiency, improved quality, reduced re-work, and overall process improvements.
Many companies are unaware, or unconscious of how corporate learning impacts their employees and business, but organizations that establish a well-defined and strategic learning culture differentiate their workplaces—seeing results in their people and their bottom line. The idea that investing in people development, and helping employees continue to grow and learn, is something that employers can foster to create a competitive edge.
Corporate learning is a 3-part cycle:
Part 1: Knowledge Acquisition
Learning involves, by the most basic definitions, the acquisition of knowledge and the same applies to corporate learning: What’s happening in your industry? What’s changing? What’s staying the same? What are the problems to solve, gaps to close? What do employees need to know in order to do their jobs more effectively to handle these changes, gaps, and problems?
Acquiring knowledge happens in two stages: When a company’s employees ask these questions, and then as they gather answers and consider potential solutions. Let’s imagine that a company, Best Gift For You, markets itself as the premier one-stop-gift-shopping solution. It has numerous departments, including Books, Music, Gadgets and Appliances, and Clothing. It’s been using the tried-and-true Algorithms Work! software to give users the perfect suggestions for the loved ones on their gift lists.
Recently, the Book Department’s sales have gone down because customers have been complaining that the books they are being sent have not “Wowed!” the recipients. The staff in the Book Department does research and realizes new software is available called “Best Book Finder”. This software asks more detailed questions than the Algorithms Work! software and it might help bring the Book department’s sales up. A quick look at their competitors’ websites (Our Gifts Are The Best and Our Gifts Are Even Better) makes it clear that neither has adopted the newest software.
No Book Department’s staff has used it either. So, how can these employees acquire the necessary skills they need? How can their employer facilitate this process? One solution might be to set up a training with a company like KnowledgeForce Consulting to assist the employees in learning and working together to become familiar with the Best Book Finder software and feel confident using it.
The Book Department employees participate in a training during which they are able to take time to learn to use the new software, to ask questions, and to work together to address unforeseen issues that crop up during the learning workshops. They discover while working with mock gift recipient profiles that occasionally the software suggests two books would be enjoyed equally by the recipient.
The Book Department staff identifies two potential solutions: send one book, but not the other; or offer to send the second book at a discounted rate. After sharing their discoveries with Senor Leadership, and getting approval, the Book Department decides to run a month-long promotion, offering the second book at a discount to see how it affects sales: Will customers purchase both books, or only one?
Part 2: Knowledge Application
Following the training, the Book Department employees are able to better assist their customers finding those perfect books by using the Best Book Finder software. The month-long promotion gives them a potential edge over their competitors that do not use the software and do not offer discounts for multiple book purchases.
The employees are combining these new skills and the knowledge they’ve gained from looking outward–they discovered the new software–to help the company innovate in ways that will continue to give it advantages. The company leadership also decided to address company policies and practices to make them more effective and efficient: Every new employee of the Book Department will be given several days of training on the Best Book Finder software, rather than be expected to learn the software after shadowing a long-time employee for a couple of days, as had been the previous practice.
Part 3: Knowledge Dissemination
Finally, employees disseminating or sharing knowledge encourages the practice: When a few people share ideas, it is likely that more people will do the same. After several weeks of using the software and seeing an increase in sales and reports from happy customers (their recipients were indeed, “Wowed!” by their gifts) during a company-wide briefing, the other departments are encouraged by their colleagues’ success.
They decide to see whether the Best Book Finder software could be modified for their own departments, or whether similar software already exists that they can use to benefit customers shopping in their departments. Sharing prepares everyone for the next occurrence of the cycle. Intrigued? This is just the beginning of what is possible.
Corporate learning should be embraced as a continuous process; learning benefits both staff and the company as a whole. There are numerous benefits to enacting a corporate learning culture: Companies will see increases in efficiency, productivity, and profits. Employers will also see a decrease in employee turnover.
When companies embrace continuous learning, employees will actively pursue improvement, and there will be a shared investment in both collaboration and project results. A culture of learning promotes employee growth and creates leaders in all areas, which is useful for future planning. These are only some of the benefits; what others have you discovered?
There are actions that companies can take to ensure the growth of a successful corporate learning culture. Here are a few:
1. Leaders must actively embrace and promote a culture of learning.
Job-seekers are actively pursuing jobs that will enable them to continue to learn new skills. In fact, many new hires are frustrated when their companies do not provide these opportunities. Hiring managers want to find the most talented individuals for open positions and they want those new hires to stay and become invested employees. Employees will be more likely to stay in a position, or with a company, if they feel that the company is dedicated to employees’ ability to grow and learn. Incorporating a culture of learning will not only lure top-notch talent, but it will improve employee retention.
2. Emphasize “learning.”
The words we use affect the way we think, understand, and feel about the world around us. If we have a more positive outlook at the outset of a new situation, we’ll likely enjoy the experience more, or at least appreciate it. When discussing training, coaching, or other in-service events, use words like “learning,” “mentoring,” and “growing” to emphasize the positive personal and professional goals, as well as the communal aspect of working together.
3. Content should be “learner-centric.”
Employees will feel more connected to their company if they feel they are valued and that their employers want them to continue growing and developing professionally. They will be more invested in training if they feel that they will benefit from these opportunities.
Learn more about best practices and read about some of the companies that are enacting corporate learning well.
We’ve only just told you about what corporate learning is, and we’re already talking about how it’s going to change–thanks to learning, growth, and responding to corporate needs. In other words, don’t get comfortable! Just as your corporate needs change and evolve over time, the learning required to meet them will continue to take new shape. Your corporate learning programs must be flexible enough to bend with the needs presented by the changes in the corporate landscape. The corporate training industry itself earned roughly $130B in 2017. Companies are abandoning their old Learning Management Systems (LMS) in favor of new technology and tools. The impact of tech such as GSuite, Microsoft Teams, Slack, and Workplace by Facebook is only beginning to be felt, and their popularity is likely to continue to grow. And we can only imagine what the future holds for new tools that aren’t even in developed yet! Learn more about the impact that new technology is going to have on the future of corporate learning.
Corporate learning is ever-changing, and more businesses are beginning to explore learning cultures as ways to enhance, innovate, and grow their businesses for the benefit of shareholders, leadership, employees, and clients.
With new advancements in technology almost daily, it can be hard to keep up! At KnowledgeForce Consulting, we’d love to help you stay in the know about what’s happening in the fast-paced world of corporate learning and ensure that you and your team are ahead of the curve. Learn more about who we are, the problems we solve, the services we offer, and read about our satisfied clients. Contact us today to help us help you stay on top!