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Building a culture of continuous learning: best practices for HR leaders

Building a culture of continuous learning: best practices for HR leaders

Written by:
LINDAVECVAGARE
Date created
August 23, 2023
Last updated:
Jul 4, 2023
|
5 min read
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Key takeaways

The modern workplace is a dynamic and continually transforming arena, consistently challenging HR leaders to create an environment that encourages continuous learning and growth. After all, with today’s rapid technological advancements and increasingly competitive markets, businesses that invest in employee upskilling are those that will win the competitive advantage.

So, how can you create a culture where everyone is excited to learn, share knowledge, and level up in their professional journeys? In this article, we’ll dig deeper into what continuous learning is, explore an inspiring case study and hear from  HR expert and podcast host Neelie Verlinden on how to put continuous learning into practice.

Content

  1. Understanding Continuous Learning
  2. Why Would You Invest in Continuous Growth?
  3. Benefits of Continuous Learning
  4. Best Practices for HR Leaders
  5. Google: A Case Study in Continuous Learning
  6. HR Expert Insights: Putting Continuous Learning into Practice

Understanding Continuous Learning

Speed, agility, and flexibility – they’re not just the latest buzzwords you’ll only hear in the boardroom, but the lifelines that keep businesses thriving in this fast-paced, ever-evolving world of work. With the whole globe interconnected and technology taking giant leaps on almost a daily basis, the skills and knowledge necessary to stay competitive are constantly changing. As a business to succeed amidst these changes, you’ll need your teams to have the willingness to learn new skills and keep pace with the shifting demands of their jobs. This calls for an organization-wide culture of continuous learning.  

What is continuous learning? As the term implies, it’s the process of perpetually acquiring new knowledge and skills during your lifetime. It can be viewed as an ongoing process. Why would that be necessary? Because cliche as it might sound, change is the only constant. It really doesn’t matter if you’re fresh out of college or working in a specific field; what you learned two years ago could be outdated today.

Definition of continuous learning at work

In a business context, continuous learning in the workplace means creating a culture where your employees are motivated and committed to learning new things, upgrading their skills, sharing knowledge, and challenging themselves to develop on both a professional and a personal level. No matter your industry, adopting lifelong learning contributes to sustainable growth for both your individual employees and your organization.

Why Would You Invest in Continuous Growth?

Investing in continuous training isn’t just a business expense – it’s a strategic investment in your company’s future. As the world becomes more complex and competitive, a continuous learning culture is essential for organizations to remain relevant and ready for the Future of Work. Deloitte research backs this up:

  • Innovation: high performing learning organizations are 92% more likely to innovate
  • Skills of the Future: these types of organizations are also 58% more prepared to meet future skills demand
  • Productivity: plus, they experience 37% higher employee productivity

However, Gartner revealed that 70% of employees haven’t mastered the skills they need for their jobs today, and a further 80% lack the skills they need for their future roles. This gap can only be bridged by adopting a continuous learning model that emphasizes ongoing training and development.

You might also like: 10 Essential Skills For Every Future Proof Organization according to the World Economic Forum

Benefits of Continuous Learning

Investing in continuous active learning isn’t just about improving individual performance; it’s about driving company-wide success. When we look at the benefits of continuous learning, it’s clear that this approach impacts multiple facets of your business:

Continuous learning fosters adaptability

With the rise of workforce automation and AI, globalization, and remote work, both your employees and your leaders need to be resilient and adaptable – the latter being a trait that Harvard Business Review points out is key to thriving in a fast-paced, constantly evolving business environment. A continuous learning plan helps your people maintain and improve their skill sets, ensuring they always have the relevant skills needed to succeed in their roles.

Increased employee engagement and retention

  • In a 2022 Deloitte survey, 44% of Gen Z and 43% of millennials left their organization due to workload pressure from lack of learning and development opportunities and training
  • According to LinkedIn Learning, the opportunity to learn and develop new skills is one of the top five factors that drive people to pursue new jobs

These statistics prove that employees who feel like you care about their career development are more likely to stay with your company. This will reduce your hiring costs, as well as the high expenses that come with training new talent. Plus, you’ll avoid a ‘brain drain’ – which often happens when your best people leave and take their knowledge and expertise with them.

You might also like: The Art of Top Talent Retention: How to Stop Losing A-players

Improved performance and productivity

When you’re invested in the continuous improvement of skills, you’ll equip your teams with a robust set of knowledge and competencies, empowering them to excel in their jobs. This direct investment into their capabilities paves the way for improved performance and heightened productivity. Consider the sales team, whose refined understanding of client needs, thanks to ongoing training, can result in more impactful sales strategies. Similarly, data scientists keeping up with the latest AI trends can lead to more streamlined and effective data analysis processes, driving enhanced decision-making and strategic insights. By promoting lifelong learning, you don’t just fuel individual growth, but also foster a more effective and efficient workforce.

Innovation and problem-solving

Continuous learning nurtures an environment of creativity, curiosity, and exploration, which are crucial for innovation. It encourages your employees to question existing processes, explore new ideas, and come up with smart solutions, driving the organization forward.

Attracting talent

A culture of continuous learning can be a powerful magnet for ambitious talent, as you position yourself as an attractive employer. Prospective employees, particularly millennials and Gen Z, value career growth opportunities and are drawn to organizations that provide such environments.

“Today, talents want to work at companies where they can better themselves as professionals and as people – companies with an inspiring learning and development curriculum, an established learning culture, regular feedback, and all the right tools to boost their employees’ development experience. Putting all these prerequisites in place not only helps you hire and retain talent; it also enables you to get the most out of them.”
René Janssen, Founder & CEO of Lepaya in Forbes Magazine

Best Practices for HR Leaders

How can you design a people development strategy that boosts business performance and keeps talented professionals sticking around for the long haul?

Promoting a culture of continuous learning requires more than merely implementing an occasional training program. It calls for a strategic approach from HR leaders, creating an environment where learning and growing are part of the day-to-day workflow.

Here are some best practices for achieving this:

  1. Foster a growth mindset

Learning culture often goes hand in hand with the concept of a growth mindset. This is the conviction that skills, knowledge, and abilities can be continuously improved. Promoting a growth mindset at work involves encouraging curiosity, fostering a culture of learning from failures, and celebrating effort and progress, not just the end results. It requires commitment at all levels – especially from those in leadership roles.

  1. Implement personalized learning plans

Recognize that not all employees learn the same way or have the same goals. Implement personalized learning plans that cater to different learning styles and individual objectives.

  1. Use modern-day technology

Leverage technology to facilitate continuous active learning. This can range from AI-driven tools that deliver personalized learning journeys to immersive experiences via virtual reality. At Lepaya, we offer ground-breaking VR training and provide your teams with a dedicated AI Coach, resulting in a fun and future-focused learning experience.

  1. Celebrate continuous learners

Recognize and reward enthusiastic, continuous learners. By acknowledging those who embody the spirit of lifelong learning, you’re not just giving them a pat on the back. You’re effectively setting a standard, signaling to the rest of the organization this is the kind of mindset that leads to success and progress.

  1. Encourage knowledge sharing

Encourage employees to share their learning journey with their colleagues, and the impact it has had on their daily work. It doesn’t matter if they work in other departments or in different roles. Cross-functional knowledge sharing can be done through presentations, seminars, or simply through informal discussions at the coffee machine – the idea is just to get the message across.

  1. Lead by example

When leaders show their own commitment to learning, it not only motivates their employees but also creates a shared understanding of its importance. Key to this is demonstrating learning agility –  the ability to quickly adapt, learn from experiences, and apply that learning to new situations. By embodying this learning agility, leaders can inspire their teams to embrace change, foster innovation, and continuously pursue knowledge.

Google: A Case Study in Continuous Learning

A renowned champion of this learning method is Google. Its ‘Google’s 20% time’ policy, though unofficial now, once allowed employees to dedicate 20% of their time to projects that they felt passionate about, outside of their regular workload. This fueled a culture of creativity and innovation, leading to the development of some of Google’s most successful products, like Gmail and AdSense. A classic example of continuous learning leading to tangible business results.

Moreover, Google offers numerous internal learning and development resources, including ‘Googler-to-Googler’, a program where employees teach each other skills ranging from public speaking to machine learning. Their ‘CareerGuru’ program matches employees with senior advisors for career development advice, further promoting a culture of learning and growth.

In Google’s ‘Project Aristotle’, a study conducted to understand the secrets of effective teams, psychological safety, and a culture of respect and openness to learning were found to be crucial factors. This reinforces the importance of fostering a continuous learning culture for team success.

HR Expert Insights: Putting Continuous Learning into Practice

Building a continuous learning culture, as demonstrated by Google, is a long-term commitment. It demands strategic planning, allocation of resources, and consistent effort. However, the benefits – increased employee engagement, improved performance, innovation, and the attraction of top talent – make it a worthwhile investment.

“The main benefit of embracing continuous learning, in my opinion, is the fact that it allows each and every one of us to keep growing as a person, a team member, and a colleague.”

Neelie Verlinden, podcast host, writer & public speaker.

For HR leaders, this implies adopting a proactive role in creating learning opportunities, providing necessary resources, and fostering an environment that values learning and growth. By doing so, they can help their organizations navigate the challenges of today’s rapidly evolving business landscape while simultaneously providing their employees with the tools and opportunities to achieve their full potential.

We asked HR expert and podcast host Neelie Verlinden about her view on the importance of continuing education in the workplace.

Neelie: “You can have the best possible learning culture in the world; if the people in your organization aren’t intrinsically motivated to learn and grow, it won’t matter. In that sense, fostering a successful learning culture is a two-way street. On the employee side, two things are important in this regard.

First, they need to have a growth mindset. Second, and this is something that I believe often gets forgotten, they need to know what they’re good at and what they enjoy doing. Because if they know this about themselves – in the context of their everyday job – they will be intrinsically motivated to learn and grow. That is, if the job they’re doing aligns at least to a certain extent with what they’re good at and interested in.

If, on the other hand, the job they currently do doesn’t align with their talents and/or what they enjoy doing, it is unlikely that they will be intrinsically motivated to learn. But rather than pointing their finger at their employer or HR manager, they should do their homework first and ask themselves these two simple yet important questions:

  • What are my talents?/ What am I good at?
  • What do I love doing? / What gives me energy?

And based on those answers, they can take further action to achieve their learning goals.”

Do you want to discover how to connect your people’s potential to business impact? Book a meeting with one of our L&D experts.

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