I was really lucky to have grown up in an industry where learning and development was a priority. They had a function and a budget and embedded that into the performance management culture. Everything was about how you can perform better, improve and excel.
They had the formal courses, coaching, an online portal for wider skills and shared knowledge on local SharePoint. It really was a learning culture. If you didn’t want to learn and improve, the first question was why? Because those people were in the minority and either weren’t a good fit, or something was holding them back.
They didn’t see learning and development as a process and neither do I.
I believe in learning cultures where everyone has access to material and opportunities. I want to see everyone being encouraged to seek learning, put their hands up, ask for what they need and then go and develop. Everyone knows how to access learning, how to get it and why it is important. They also understand the connection between the skills and lessons they are learning and how it impacts the organisations results, purpose or strategy.
In successful companies, development is not training. Of course, training plays it’s part, but it is a small part of what the company does. In successful companies, development is like Oxygen, all around, equitable and gives energy and life to the organisation.
Everyone is involved, from the managers, to employees, peers and leaders. It looks like self-reflection, mentoring, sharing ideas and knowledge, coaching each other, doing knowledge sharing presentations, giving opportunities to others, accessible training and courses and crucially, everyone is responsible and accountable.
Does this sound like your culture?
A case study
In 2010 I was selected for a leadership development programme. It connected high potential leaders from the organisation and formed cohorts of learning. We gathered together every month and learned through blended and active learning. It was amazing and became a building block for the work I now deliver. However, when I returned to the day job, I saw a real gap. The leaders had development, but the everyday employees had to fight hard to access development, and it was usually job specific skills like a presentation course or intermediate excel. I wanted others to experience what I had, so I created a programme for others, the everyday employees.
I wanted to embed a learning culture and demonstrate that my function was serious about developing its people. With very little budget and the offer of time from my peers, I created a programme that blended workshops, action learning, coaching, mentoring and shared learning. The results were astonishing. 18 or the 20 members took on more responsibility, increased their performance or gained a promotion in the 6 months after the programme. When we had a job in the function, we were inundated with internal applicants who wanted to work with us. Our functions brand became legendary. So, we not only attracted the best talent, we developed our people to perform better and everyone worked cohesively, enjoying the experience. It absolutely impacted bottom line results.
And I was not an L&D professional. I was a leader who wanted my people to perform and love their work.
In my case study, I turned L&D upside down.
Instead of sending people on courses that they dreaded, I provided learning they actually wanted, to solve a problem that they identified themselves. Instead of moaning that they couldn’t afford to take time out to watch a presentation for a few hours, they were asking me for specific content and helping me create a meaningful programme. My peers volunteered to coach and mentor others and to be active in the development of others. We created opportunities to help members apply their learnings. Everyone was involved and everyone created the culture of learning.
Your L&D approach must add value, not just on the bottom line, but to the members of the cohort. It must have an impact on peoples work, so they feel empowered to apply the learning as soon as they return to the day job. What happens after the learning intervention is as important as what happens during the session.
For example, I can watch a Joe Wicks workout, or read his books, but I have to apply it to get results.
When you provide an L&D opportunity for your people, you have to be actively involved. Everyone does, from managers, leaders, supervisors, and colleagues. Give people the learning, then let them apply it. They might be nervous, make a few mistakes and eventually they will find their way and see the impacts. As a leader, check in after the learning, asking what they learned, how will they apply it and then encourage them. Give feedback. Give praise. Then, notice the difference and help them understand the link between their development and impact.
How do people learn and develop in your organisation?
How is development accessed?
What role do leaders and managers play?
Do you have a coaching or mentoring culture?
What would it take for you to shift to a learning culture?