LAS is an award-winning provider of elearning consultancy, design, development and training services in the UK and internationally.
Established in 2005 as LearningAge Solutions, we work with some of the best known organisations in the world to boost their performance through the innovative use of learning technologies. Working in partnership with our customers, we draw on proven principles from human behaviour, how people learn and how the brain works to create impactful digital learning solutions with real return on investment.
Tess is a director of LAS. She has worked in a learning environment for over twenty years. First, as a senior manager in universities, moving into digital learning ten years ago.
By Tess Robinson
Posted 16 October 2020
Culture in organisations is complex. Most theories on organisational culture agree that is it a long-term endeavour, built over time as a result of a number of influences, Learning culture is often thought to evolve in a similar way i.e. a slow burn over a number of years. There is considerable evidence that those organisations who achieve a Learning Culture, what Emerald Works (formerly Towards Maturity) refer to as HILCs (high impact learning cultures), benefit from higher growth, profitability, transformation and productivity. Who doesn’t need that today? But what if you can’t wait years for this to happen and need to accelerate that change?
A learning culture requires a clear vision for learning in your organisation that is very explicitly linked to goals. It needs leaders to be onboard and leading from the front. It requires an infrastructure, policies and practices that really embed learning into the organisation. These things all take time to establish, particularly if they’re very different from before. The current business environment doesn’t really afford us the luxury of time – a more rapid response is necessary. Whilst you’re working on the fundamentals, what are the little things that can you start putting in place now to start sowing the seeds for transformation to a learning culture?
1. Reiterate organisational goals and values (check they still stand first – Covid and the general VUCA environment may have necessitated some significant changes). Why are you doing what you’re doing? Does everyone know and understand the organisation’s goals and what is important along the way to achieving them? The idea is to rally everyone around the cause. Everyone needs to be clear on what the organisation is aiming to achieve and what role they play in that.
2. Start telling stories about learning via your internal communication channels. If your organisation isn’t quite ready to start celebrating failure then focus on celebrating successes.Look for case studies of where learning has improved results, be they in productivity, sales, job satisfaction – whatever measure appeals to your audience. And if you’re not sure what appeals – ask them! Never make any assumptions about what your audience will deem important.
3. Encourage and support line managers to use team meetings to have a regular learning slot – they could ask‘ what did you learn this week’ or ‘what didn’t go so well this week and how did you solve it?’ Create a safe space for people to start sharing their learnings.This can then feed into the stories that you tell.
4. Embed learning into your recruitment process. Include a standard question that asks candidates to‘ describe a time when something didn’t go to plan and what they learned from it’ or ‘how they have developed their skills in X area over the past year’ or to ‘tell us about something you learned from doing X or Y’. This way, new recruits can see the value that your organisation places on learning at the outset.
5. Make sure that appropriate channels are available for people to be able to share their stories, access or share learning opportunities. At present, with a lot of people working from home, these will probably need to be digital platforms.
HBR described organisations with learning cultures as ‘characterised by exploration, expansiveness, and creativity… inventive places where people spark new ideas and explore alternatives. Employees are united by curiosity; leaders emphasise innovation, knowledge, and adventure’. Sounds great, right? Not only does this sort of environment sound amazing to work in, it is also these types of organisations who are able to be agile, flexible and open-minded who will be best equipped to thrive in the current storm. These baby steps can start to set the stage for more wide-scale changes, which can provide the basis for future survival and even success.