Learning

An Idea for Creating a Learning Culture

An idea for creating a learning culture

Do you have a learning culture in your organisation or are you looking to create one? Here’s one idea…

Yesterday I wrote a short post about World Health Day. It made me think about the power of one – one person, one idea, one action – and how you can use the power of one to develop a learning culture within an organisation.

One Value

The one idea behind a learning culture is to encourage continuous learning that will in-turn increase the knowledge, understanding and most importantly the competence of employees within the organisation. It’s true that this one idea is made up of a collection of models, processes, conventions, values, and so on, but, I believe it starts with one. ONE VALUE. This value must be formally promoted as one of the core values of the organisation.

I’m grateful that in recent years long-winded core value statements have been reduced to more memorable statements. I mean, if you can’t remember what the core value statements says, how can you hope to apply it?

As with all core value statements, my advice is to make your learning culture statement:

  • Short. Very short. Three words maximum is preferable. For example, ‘Learning to Grow’ or ‘Continually Learning Together’. Go for: Memorable, inspirational, actionable.
  • Applicable to everyone. A core value doesn’t apply to some employees, it applies to everyone. If it doesn’t apply to everyone, then it’s not a core value.
  • A prompt to tell your story. As a customer (or new employee) of an organisation, I want to hear a real story from an employee of how the value worked for them, not a rehashed, generic story.

One Action

In addition to the one value an organisation must create ONE ACTION to support the value.

A culture is the ideas, customs and behaviours of a society. That means, if you want your organisation to become a learning culture you may need to change some of your current ideas, customs or behaviours. And that means you need to be proactive. You need to take action.

This action must be:

  • Policy. An action that is done regularly by everyone and applies to everyone.
  • The ‘default’ setting. No-one need ‘apply’, it is part of how the organisation works.
  • Habit forming. Once it becomes part of your employees’ behaviour, your learning culture will truly begin.

Does this sound too hard to create? It doesn’t have to be.

Here’s an example of how an organisation I worked with a few years ago revitalised their culture through action. In this case the culture was related to safety but the principles are the same.

People working in the safe environment of the Head Office made safety decisions for employees working in dangerous environments. To ensure that all decisions made were mindful of safety they introduced Safety Shares as a core value.

The Safety Share was more than a value, it was an action. At any meeting of more than three people, one of them would share a story about safety that happened that day or very recently. The story had two parts, the risk and how to mitigate the risk. For example, ‘On the tube into work today, I saw a passenger standing in front of the yellow lines on the platform and I asked them politely if they could step back.’ Or, “I was in the office just now and saw boxes in the aisle, so I moved them out of the way.’ Or, “I was so angry I was about to send a rude email back but I counted to ten, thought of the implications and deleted the email.’

The Safety Share happened at all levels of the organisation from Execs to temps, to visitors. Every PowerPoint presentation started with a Safety Share slide; every conference call; it was also included in the visitor’s induction eLearning.

It was policy, it was the default setting and by the time I worked with the organisation it was second-nature to everyone I met and seemed a natural way to start any meeting or presentation.

The purpose of the Safety Share was to make employees mindful of their actions and responsibilities. It changed their behaviour – a walk to work, a coffee break, an email sent to them in error – any situation was assessed with the lens of safety.

Simple. Effective. Impressive.

Of course this one action is only the beginning of a culture but an important first step.

So. Over to you. What type of action would (or can) you create that would help to embed a learning culture in your organisation?

Agree or disagree? Please add to comments other things you would add to or change in my list above.

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