The most successful organizations actively encourage individuals to take ownership of their own development and make the most of their potential. As these tips demonstrate, it doesn’t have to take a lot of time and effort to build an environment where learning thrives.
1. Think beyond face-to-face
One of the biggest misconceptions about learning is that it has to involve sending people off on a training course. It doesn’t. Many of us have organizational tools to call on, from micro-learning to e-learning and self-development toolkits. What's more, we often do things at work that enable us to learn, without even realising we’re doing it. Delegating tasks, on-the-job coaching, mentoring, working on new projects and even discussion between employees can be effective methods of development. All of these approaches can happen remotely too. It's just about having the right tech and tools in place to communicate effectively with your team.
Cross-team project work – providing your team with opportunities to connect with people from other teams and departments – will help improve their personal networks and give them a fresh perspective on the organization as a whole. Remember to allow time for reflection too – sometimes people only realise how much they've learned from these activities when they're asked to reflect on them.
2. Listen to your employees
Don’t have preconceived ideas about what your team should learn, and how they should learn it. They're far more likely to engage with a learning experience if they feel that they own it. Encourage them to offer their own development ideas, and have an open mind when they do. Be sure to make development opportunities a feature of your oneto-one discussions. If you feel that a development suggestion is inappropriate, however, provide constructive feedback as to why, and be sure to offer suitable alternatives.
3. Encourage creativity and experimentation
Stretching individuals and their thinking is an extremely effective learning method. Why not start by scheduling some time with your team to look at new ways of doing current tasks, to identify any inefficiencies? Then challenge them to find new ways of doing existing tasks or to come up with new, more efficient processes. Not only will they benefit, but the organization will too.
4. Share 'lessons learned'
When someone (ourselves included) makes a mistake, our default position is to view this negatively. However, doing something ‘wrong’ is actually one of the most powerful learning experiences that we can have. If a member of staff makes a mistake, don’t reprimand them for it. Help them to correct the error and provide appropriate resources and support. Most importantly, capture any lessons learned and communicate these as appropriate, to help others in future.
5. Share useful information and knowledge
Following on from the above, if you develop an effective new process, come across a useful piece of information or find a helpful resource, don’t keep it to yourself – share it. There are all sort of tools to help employees share ideas, from email to the company intranet and social networking tools. Some others you could consider include instant messaging (such as Slack or Yammer), document sharing such as Google Docs or Sharepoint. And social media (LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter).
Set a good example by sharing things you have found useful or interesting using these tools and hopefully others will follow. Maybe have a prompt to encourage employees to think about what they've learned today or this week and share it. Again, reflection is the trigger for the actual learning.
6. Promote interaction (beyond the immediate and the obvious)
Often, people don’t think to look for an answer or source an idea much further than their own team or trusted colleagues. It’s important to prompt people to go further than their immediate networks and interact with other teams, departments and organisations. Encourage staff to ask and share examples and stories about how others do things. Or suggest that they join professional communities on social networking sites to tap into the considerable experience and knowledge of others in their field.
7. Design your workspace
Creativity and innovative thinking are encouraged by well-designed offices that combine personal, private space with collaborative areas for group interaction and knowledge sharing. If you can, create spaces such as break-out rooms or soft seating areas, with flipcharts and pin boards, where employees can get together and share information and ideas spontaneously. This will encourage the kind of informal discussions where learning will often take place.
If sharing a physical space isn't an option, for whatever reason, then think about how you might re-create some of these interactions and knowledge sharing online. Virtual meeting software is becoming increasingly sophisticated, for example, allowing for break-out groups within sessions. While apps like Trello can help you capture ideas, suggestions and work actions on cards that everyone can see.
8. Embrace different ways of working
Different ways of working such as flexible and remote working and virtual teams give organizations plenty of scope to recruit from a wider, more diverse pool of potential talent. They help organizations to bring together a range of people, providing more opportunities to interact with, and learn from, colleagues with different perspectives.
The are many benefits of having an active and future-focused learning culture: motivated individuals and teams, a positive workplace atmosphere, staff retention, improved business results, innovative products and services and increased competitive advantage. Why not start building yours today?
Looking for even more top tips? You can find lots of useful resources in our Mind Tools toolkit. Find out more, here.
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