Encouraging Learning in the Workplace

Learning never exhausts the mind”.Leonardo da Vinci

We start learning from a very young age and those who are sensible understand that learning is a never-ending process and will continue their endeavour to learn irrespective of age, status, qualification and position. Learning in the workplace is the same – in fact organizations that encourage learning in the workplace are providing an atmosphere of growth and sustainability. There would be opportunities to learn, help others to learn and grow in the process and only those who are keen on growing and understand the value of learning will take up these opportunities in all earnestness. Learning in the workplace fosters a feeling of collaboration, understanding and also builds a happy and non-threatening atmosphere, allowing each person to contribute to the best of their ability. Learning also allows people to accept change as given and necessary and this kind of regular learning is not necessarily formal classroom training but everyday interactions with people very different from you, too is also a kind learning in the workplace.

For more formalized and structured training and learning in the workplace, there are trainers, courses and programs. However, if each person were to use their specific skills and knowledge to engage with and promote a learning environment it would foster team spirit, new ways of doing things and a workplace where each person looks out for the other in an effort to grow and progress together.

So how can you help people learn effectively within your company or team? There are many ways to do this, some of which involve actual ‘lessons.’ However, the general idea is to create an environment where people are committed to learning, and in which they are supported in their efforts.

Opportunities for learning in the workplace are constantly present and a company that encourages learning and recognizes efforts made towards learning and personal development will not find it tough to sustain growth. Creating and sustaining an environment of learning in the workplace is not hard to do – it however, requires on-going and relentless commitment from the leaders to support these efforts and also those who take this commitment seriously.

The harsh reality however is that given the frenzied working hours, people don’t always want to break away from their work routine to take time out for learning. Others resist change and yet others believe that they have already learned what they need to and nothing remains to be learnt. If this is the mind-set that exists, then irrespective of trainers, great training programs and all the tools for training, no real learning will happen. It is imperative therefore for companies to create an environment of learning and motivate people to learn in order to encourage and sustain change for growth.

Learning in the workplace is all about creating and sustaining an interest – being able to show the employees the value of continuous growth and its effects on each person’s success. Without learning, there can be no growth and if people don’t grow with and within an organization, they soon become frustrated and seek opportunities outside of the company. These are the very people who attribute little or no value to learning in the workplace – ironic!

Learning in the workplace must be consistent with the values and culture of the company, must be relevant and engaging and its benefits must be easily discernible. To grow one’s experience and current skill levels, learning is an indispensable and extremely important tool. It helps people do their daily jobs better and roots out the mundane and onerousness of a job. Companies must seriously focus on encouraging learning in the workplace by connecting it to the employee’s jobs and also performance appraisals. I know of a company that have mandated a certain number of training hours for each employee and also has necessitated personal development. Employees are required to fill in the portion on the performance appraisal forms that expressly ask for what employees consider to be things they did to encourage personal growth through learning. This puts the onus of professional growth partly on the employee too. Employees that take no interest in learning either remain stagnant or soon find themselves unable to compete in the highly energized learning environment and become less productive resulting in either them leaving of their own accord or being terminated from the services of the company. In both cases, the company and the employee suffer and therefore it is in the best interest of both parties to encourage and take part in learning in the workplace.

Do you encourage such an environment in your company or do you still rely on ‘traditional’ methods to run your company? What can you do to get people engaged and excited about continually learning? We can never overemphasize the role leadership and senior people play in creating and cementing a culture in the company. This is not just required from an internal point of view, but also from a customer service perspective. Customers remain in business with companies that come across as progressive and innovative. Both these attributes are off-shoots of learning and a workforce that is knowledgeable and in tune with the latest happenings in the business environment. They would be able to provide more efficient service, faster responses and would be empowered to make decisions that would find favour with customers.

Each person has their own pace and style of learning. A company must make regular assessments of these styles and needs and provide an environment and structured programs that are aligned to them. Some people prefer to learn in groups and are more comfortable sharing knowledge with their own team-mates – encourage team learning through the dissemination of skills and knowledge from the more experienced members of the team. Each person in the team would have their own particular strengths and it would be prudent to use these for the benefit of all concerned. Yet others need more focused and structured training for specific skills and knowledge. This is where formalized training programs must be arranged for these particular skills. Another form of learning in the workplace are the inculcation and strengthening of soft skills – emotional intelligence, communication, interpersonal, empathy, active listening, giving and receiving feedback and other such skills that strengthen bonds within a workplace and also create a happier workforce.

On a regular basis too, the work culture must be such that people are encouraged to learn. Training materials, company literature, general learning and other such materials must be readily available in the organization – both online and as hard copies lying around in the office. A company’s attitude and demeanour towards learning in the workplace has a colossal impact on the psyche and outlook of the employees towards continuous learning. The senior leadership, direct managers and others in positions of authority must prove to be sound role models that people can emulate and foster a culture of learning.

As pointed out earlier, learning in the workplace can often be seen as forced or something that people don’t want to engage in willingly. No one can be forced to learn even if they attend the best training programs. However, if the office environment is one that supports the cause of continuous learning, people will be drawn towards it and participate in the learning process. Show them the direct link between learning and growth and success – not just for the company but also each person individually. You can be certain that every one wishes to grow, earn more and be known as successful. Using every opportunity for learning in the workplace can ensure that you steadily move closer to your personal and professional growth dreams.

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