How to create a continuous learning culture in your workplace — Talent Works International
A new year is when many people choose to set goals for career progression, and this often means vowing to learn a new skill or develop existing ones. Learning and development always come into focus at this time of year; employers are starting to think about the skills their organisation will need in the next 12 months. Likewise, employees are looking at how they can grow and develop in their roles. However, according to City & Guilds’ annual skills index 2021, 30% of UK workers say they have not received formal workplace training in the last five years. Of these, 11% have never received any training or development opportunities at all.
The same survey found that over 22 million UK workers do not feel they are equipped with all the skills they will need to unlock new opportunities in the next five years. Therefore, we expect learning and development to come to the fore more than ever in 2022. As the tech recruitment market becomes even more competitive and employers are continually struggling to fill a skills gap, learning and development could help them retain talent and solve any tech talent acquisition issues. Employees want to learn new skills and prepare for a future where tech is the focus. Employers need tech talent to adapt their business and grow in the changing market. So what’s the solution?
Many startups and scaleups prioritise learning and development programmes within their organisations and adjust their EVPs to promote a continuous learning culture. A continuous learning culture is described as an ongoing process to encourage individuals to embed new skills and knowledge, performance, and innovation practice across a business. It’s a culture where new ideas are celebrated, eagerness to learn is encouraged, and opportunities are continuous.
Creating this sort of culture in your startup or scaleup makes sense. If it forms a core part of your EVP and Employer Brand, it can help you entice talent into your organisation, like graduates looking for opportunities to learn and progress in their careers. Plus, it will help with retention. According to the LinkedIn Workplace Learning Report 2019, 94% of employees would stay at a company longer if there is an investment in their learning and development. This isn’t surprising, as investing in education is investing in your people; it’s helping them to grow and develop vital skills that will help throughout their careers. It keeps progression hungry employees constantly striving for more rather than looking elsewhere and proves opportunities to grow with your business.
So, how can scaling tech businesses create a culture of continuous learning whilst also trying to grow their teams and products? It’s not going to be easy, but these tips could help.
Prioritise learning in your EVP
The foundation of any company culture begins with the EVP. Your Employee Value Proposition outlines what you can offer an employee working for you and what they should expect from you. Therefore, if you’re serious about making learning a core part of your company culture, it needs to become part of your EVP. This means adjusting your EVP framework to ensure that learning and development are prominent elements; doing this will ensure this focus is clear for both existing employees and future team members. In addition, adjust your values to reflect that you’re always learning, looking for the next innovations and celebrating personal development. This way, your culture of continuous learning will also run throughout your employer brand messaging, meaning that you’ll attract like-minded candidates who want to learn and strive for more.
Make accountability clear
Managers in a scaling business don’t always have the time to constantly check on the learning and development of every team member. Therefore, if your company wants to create a culture of continuous learning, you need to ensure that everyone takes responsibility and knows who is accountable. If you believe it’s an individuals’ responsibility to ensure that they’re improving their skills and progressing should they want to, then make it known. Explain your business is happy to support, but ultimately the accountability is on the individual, and learning won’t be micromanaged. Similarly, if you want a more managed and structured learning and development programme, ensure manager’s know it is their responsibility to support their team members and to check on their progress. Knowing where accountability lies is the first step in ensuring employees take you up on learning and development opportunities. Otherwise, employees are waiting for managers to initiate and vice versa; it’s better to set clear expectations from the get-go.
Embrace digital learning
With advances in online and digital learning programmes, creating a learning culture is easier than ever. It’s not like the days when learning meant sending your team members away to courses or bringing in experts. Now they can learn from their laptops. These digital resources make it possible to learn almost any skill, from coding languages to soft skills, from anywhere in the world. This makes learning and development more straightforward than ever to embrace.
Some employers may choose to sign up to online course providers, giving employees constant access to online learning materials that will help them to advance in their careers. Others may ask that employees find any digital learning platforms that suit them and pay any relevant costs (within reason). Either way, online learning opens many doors and gives employees countless opportunities to learn and develop their skillsets. In addition, it makes learning much more accessible. Online learning doesn’t have to be as formal as a traditional course, and if employees are used to logging in and learning, it will become part of your company culture in no time.
Set time aside
The biggest obstacle to learning and development is time. Time is something that startups and scaleups often don’t have much of, and therefore it impacts their ability to grow and refine skills. Once workloads pile up, it’s harder to find the time for learning and development, and employees are often scared that if they take on any extra learning as it will eat into their personal time. Therefore, startups and scaleups need to build a learning culture where employees can set aside time for learning. Normalise taking a few hours out of the working week to learn and do an online course or refine skills. Otherwise, your employees simply won’t do it.
If you have calendar systems and shared diaries, make it clear that it’s easy to block out time for learning. Communicate that employees can move workaround if they wish to learn a new skill that will support them in the future. The more people within your organisation take time out and prioritise learning and development. The more others will follow suit. The reason it’s not common is that we’re all so bogged down in work or trying hard to scale our tech business that learning becomes less of a priority. By setting time aside, you’re proving that it is just as important as the job in hand, and simultaneously, learning will become a crucial part of your employer brand.
Learning will never become a part of your company culture and employer brand if overlooked. If you are serious about embedding learning and development into your company culture and your EVP, then it needs to be celebrated. Praise your employees when they receive a new qualification, gain a new skill or finish a course. Shout about their achievements to the rest of the team. This will encourage other people to follow in their footsteps and encourage learning across all levels of the organisation. It will allow employees to see that other people are taking the opportunity to enhance their skills and that your business supports this. Celebrating achievements will motivate team members, boost employee engagement and enhance your employer brand, as not only are you supporting development, but you’re praising it too.
Lead by example
There’s always room for improvement, whether you’re an intern or a CEO. Learning never stops. Therefore, if you genuinely wish to embed learning and development into your EVP, you need to ensure business leaders and senior team members are setting the standard. To create a company culture centred around personal growth and development, everyone at all levels of the business needs to embrace it. Therefore, ask managers to partake in online learning and courses and lead by example, which will hopefully influence others to follow them. If senior teams can be seen dedicating time to education and wanting to improve themselves constantly, it sets an excellent example for the rest of your team. It also proves that your EVP is genuine, that it applies to every employee in the organisation and that your leaders are serious about improving themselves.