Colleagues sitting at a table writing in notebooks

After a time of so much transformation, it is remarkable to think the speed of change is only continuing to accelerate. While this evolution may feel overwhelming at times, especially for those of us with a preference for first-third Assertiveness and Flexibility, it is possible for organisations to promote evolution in a nurturing, inviting manner. That starts by creating a culture of learning.

In my mind, a learning culture is one where people are motivated to grow, improve and become more effective in their work and as human beings. Having this type of environment is fundamental to building a learning organisation. That term, first popularised by Peter Senge years ago, has become even more meaningful recently as it promotes the idea of a company where:

People continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning how to learn together.

When I consider the continuous change we are all experiencing, I believe this sort of climate is vital to the success of individuals as well as businesses. I do not believe, however, that development can be forced. It is something that should be supported, facilitated and made simple by the people we are surrounded with and the ethos of our companies.

When you can create an atmosphere of growth, you can truly engage employees, help them build new skills and advance your business’s cause well into the future. So, how can you cultivate such a culture? I invite you to start by prioritising five principles.

5 Essential Elements of a Learning Culture

1) Put People First

At the heart of an organisation that is committed to development is the desire to help people expand their capacities, discover new things and become even better versions of themselves. That sort of environment requires a people-centric approach from leadership. By taking a true interest in understanding who your employees are, recognising their skillsets, identifying opportunities for growth and creating mechanisms for constructive feedback, you can begin to establish a climate that will allow your people to flourish, and in effect, help your company advance as well.

Tip: Putting people first starts with getting to know your team members. Make time to find out about their interests and who they are as people. You may also wish to use assessments like the Emergenetics® Profile to glean a better understanding of how your staff prefer to think and behave as well as identify prospects for further development.

2) Cultivate Growth Mindsets

When your people are faced with a challenge, do they respond from a place of fear or one of opportunity? If individuals possess a growth mindset, problems and errors are not seen as something to hide from. They are simply learning opportunities. When growth is prioritised, people recognise that skills are not fixed and that they can always improve through practice and effort. When all staff understand obstacles are opportunities for discovery, learning becomes an innate part of your employee experience.

Tip: To promote growth mindsets in your team or company, encourage individuals to share one learning they have had each week. It could be from a training course, a mistake they made or a new concept they encountered. Whatever it is, invite individuals to share some new knowledge or understanding to encourage ongoing development.

3) Nurture Psychological Safety

The very act of learning requires some interpersonal risk taking, so creating a psychologically safe environment, where people can make mistakes without the fear of negative consequences, is vital. To grow, we must acknowledge that we do not have all the answers and then try to gain and implement new knowledge or skills. In that process, mistakes are likely inevitable. When your leaders encourage employees to fail forward by presenting errors simply as opportunities for improvement, you will be better equipped to foster a learning culture.

Tip: Share a mistake you have had in the past month with your team. You do not need to describe a major issue. Instead, start small so that your employees can take incremental steps with you. Perhaps you made an error in an email or an assumption about a project. Share those challenges, what you gained from them and what you plan to do differently next time. For more tips, read this blog from my colleague Shana Bosler.

4) Embrace Long-term Thinking

Given the many competing initiatives in any company, it can be easy to stay focused on the short-term and prioritise fires that must be put out immediately. In a learning organisation, however, staff also adopt a long-term view by asking how they can work more effectively and what they can do differently to achieve better results. To support a long-term outlook, leaders can invest in solutions that help employees resolve today’s challenges and build the skills they will need five or ten years from now.

Tip: Set one long-term growth goal for each of your direct reports. To make the objective motivating, ask your people about their aspirations. Choose an area of focus and work backwards to help them build a plan to achieve it. Be sure to revisit the plan in your performance evaluations to assess progress and make changes as needed.

5) Recognise the Need for Resiliency

Change is inevitable, and that is especially true in a company with a learning culture because these businesses realise that they must continue to transform to thrive. While growth-focused organisations recognise the need for resiliency, leaders must also acknowledge that it is not easy to rewire our brains. To help staff adapt, I invite you to find ways to celebrate team members for their development and promote self-care to support employees as they navigate ongoing changes.

Tip: Encourage staff to engage in a wellness activity that honors their preferences. You may offer some ideas like taking a nature walk or sharing mindfulness activities. It may also be useful to reinforce wellness breaks, especially in a hybrid work environment. Invite your employees to take 15 minutes each day to practice self-care.

Creating a learning culture requires time and a commitment to nurturing people. The results are well worth the effort. When you build a climate where every person and team is constantly asking how they can be more effective, your business will continually transform and realise greater potential. It starts with leaders like you taking the first steps to support and promote development. Using the steps above, I encourage you to get started today and advance the belief that we can all learn, grow and improve.

Discover how Emergenetics can support your employees’ development. Find out more about our offerings for organisations and Human Resources and Learning & Development teams or fill out the form below to speak with one of our staff members today.

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