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3 Steps to Ace a Learning Culture

In 2013, U.S. businesses spent nearly $162 billion on learning initiatives, according to the Association for Talent Development, and yet questions linger whether organizations are getting their money’s worth.

If you ask Thomas Handcock, senior director at CEB, you might get a resounding “no.” He estimates that organizations worldwide spend 11 percent more on training than is necessary.

For the Right Reasons

In terms of return on investment, there is a clear disconnect. For those businesses getting it right, learning is more than a classroom session; it is a part of the very fabric of their culture.

After all, corporate learning isn’t what it used to be. With technological advances and millennials now constituting the majority share of the workforce, employees are playing a larger role in owning their development. That’s due in part to online seminars, webinars and social-networking sites.

Kim Ruyle, president of Inventive Talent Consulting LLC, says, “If you are developing learning programs because HR police are on your back or for compliance reasons, that’s not what learning cultures are about. In a learning culture, you’ll find people learning because they want to.”

In order to instill this type of mindset in your employees, first change your approach.

Set a Standard

Culture is created, reinforced and often destroyed by leaders. Leaders are representatives for the organization and should commit to becoming life-long learners themselves. What they do and say often is reciprocated by employees. Set a standard with top executives and watch everything else fall in line.

Reward “How” as Much as “What”

Make sure you are rewarding what you say you value. How people accomplish something is a valuable component to what they accomplish. Racking up victories, collecting accolades and accumulating trophies makes your resume more impressive. But what conventional wisdom doesn’t suggest is that the how actually might be more important.

Reviewing the processes that aided in an employee’s achievement is a great learning experience; it identifies what worked. Plus, understanding how helps employees grow both personally and professionally. But it’s not just about your employees growing; the organization should, too. Organizations learn from direct experience, but there is much to learn from the experience of others as well. Reflecting on the how is beneficial for both parties.

Create Routines

Fear complacency. Engage your workforce and formalize trainings with a digital learning experience in which employees have anytime, anywhere access to a central knowledge base to access content, share expertise and measure their professional development progress. Employees will feel empowered and this type of accessibility will lead to habitual behavior. For instance, if you conduct annual reviews, engage your employees with a course explaining the process dos and don’ts. This method is a stimulus for employees to eventually change their work practices.

Interest in creating learning cultures comes as no surprise, given the rate of change post-recession. Old, mechanical ways of thinking are no longer efficient. Executives find themselves experimenting with their companies’ social structure to foster learning cultures in which members can explore, experiment and extend skill sets. The successful organizations are the ones that have adjusted to a new kind of learning – one that requires setting standards, rewarding the “how” and creating routines. With these three steps, you, too, can ace a learning culture.