My thoughts on the subject are below...and of course had to be modified for submission since they are lengthy. But enjoy!!!
· What does a learning culture look like?
o A learning culture is a culture that not only embraces change, but drives change. Just like not all employees are drive to be leaders, not all employees will have a thirst for knowledge or a desire to drive change. The designated leaders of the organization must drive change push themselves toward learning and knowledge. The formal and informal leaders of the organization will read, share ideas, and be thinking of solutions instead of noticing problems. In a learning culture, leaders at all levels will be forward thinkers. They are the ones designing the new sprinkler system before the fire starts instead of waiting until the building is ablaze and then looking for the garden hose.
· Why is a learning culture important?
o A learning culture has been important since long before our time - “The Only Constant in Life Is Change” was said by Heraclitus of Ephesus, the Greek philosopher (c.535BC – 475 BC). He could not have imagined computers, smart phones, tweets, and some of the technological advances of our day, or maybe he did and that’s what prompted his very insightful thoughts. The fact of the matter is, he was right during his time and he is right today. I’ve often been told that in the business world, you need to embrace change to be successful. I would say that to be mediocre, you need to embrace change. If you want to be truly successful, you need to drive change. You need to be the catalyst of change. In order to be the catalyst of change you need to learn the landscape of your business, your competitors business, and find out what’s hot and what’s not. To stay ahead you have to be constantly changing and learning.
· How can a learning culture positively impact any organization?
o Whether an organization is large or small, a learning culture is a necessity. When people learn, they feel good about themselves, their organization, and their industry. People who feel good about what they do, simply do it better. The overall organization will be more positive if people are engaged in learning and moving forward driving change. Without learning and knowledge you have no change and without change your organization will fall behind. Life moves fast, and in the past if you didn’t learn and change you could expect things to stay the same. With the speed of life as we know it in this century, expecting things to stay the same isn’t realistic. Doing things the same way you have always done means falling behind financially and you will neither attract nor retain quality talent for your organization. Hiring, training, and mentoring with a learning culture in mind is a great way (and possibly the only way) to positively impact a growing organization.
· How can an individual impact a learning culture?
o And individual can either negatively or positively impact a learning culture. The reach of their impact depends upon the position the individual holds either formally or informally within an organization. For example, if the owner of the organization does not value learning or education and makes this known, it may take several leaders beneath him or her to lead the team in the direction of learning. Conversely, if the owner believes strongly in learning and someone within the organization disagrees, their ability to influence others will be unlikely.
· Where do you start in building a learning culture?
o You can start a learning culture at any time within an organization. The key is communication and not timing. Don’t think ‘it’s too late to start, or I’ll start tomorrow’, instead focus on letting others know what you want to start, how you plan to start it, how you plan to sustain it, and emphasize the benefit to the individual and the team. This method will create buy in and a sustainable culture of learning for your organization. For example, at your next team or staff meeting you as the owner/leader of the organization could start with an introduction about how fast paced your industry is and how important it is going to be to stay competitive through learning. Then ask the team for their ideas and suggestions about what is important to them. Together you can develop a training program for existing teammates as well as new hires and then talk about how you will not only sustain the learning culture but also measure the results. Be transparent about your plan and what is driving the change.
· What actions will lead to a learning culture?
o Transparency and communication are most important in developing a learning culture. Simply throwing out an idea about tuition reimbursement or a new training/education regimen is not going to get everyone on board with the idea. When you introduce your ideas, you need to be transparent about what is driving the culture change. IE: I want to grow this company by 12% by year ______ and the only way we are going to do that is by staying ahead of competitor XYZ so we need____________...etc…
· How do you nurture a learning culture?
o Once you have shared your desires with your team/employees, and you’ve developed a plan for a culture change, you need to nurture those on both ends of the spectrum. You will have those who do not want to change/grow/learn and it is just as important to nurture them as it is to nurture those who are embracing the change, growing, and learning. Let those who are embracing the change know how appreciated and valued they are. Bring them in on more projects, reward them monetarily if possible. For those who are not quite on board yet, talk to them and find out where the resistance is coming from and decide how best to nurture and nudge them in the right direction. Let them know that they too are valued and figure out how they learn best and then develop a program that will best meet their needs to help you achieve your objectives for the organization.
· How do you sustain a learning culture?
o To sustain a learning culture long term, it is important to develop a training/learning schedule that meets the needs of your organization. If your trade association or industry does not offer certifications, licenses, etc…you can develop them yourself within the organization. Let the team know what is expected of them, provide them the tools they need to be successful, and reward them for achieving and exceeding your expectations. Make the process as fun as possible. You want to accomplish your goals, and a team that is engaged and happy is more likely to embrace those goals than a team that is going through the motions to collect a paycheck.