Introduce a lifelong learning culture: Be an Employer of Choice.

christinapd
HR Consultant
People Development Magazine
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 If you are a Leader, Manager or HR Professional then you are probably a lifelong learner.  A recent survey by CIPD “The Coaching Climate” shows that out of 332 responses from organisations; 77% of them used coaching and mentoring.  All activity was to help develop and improve talent planning and/or performance. A massive 61% used coaching to aid leadership development.

I don’t know about you, but if you are anything like me, lifelong learning has featured as a major part of my career to date.  My love of lifelong learning has not just been to develop my career and work life.  I have been a lifelong learner for… well… for life!

The zest for learning started at an early stage for me.  And I can confidently say that the drive for learning is in all of us from the beginning.  If any of you doubt my assertion,  then check out this video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TUTz5nlUouE&context=C458b0eeADvjVQa1PpcFOAKFmnj-v-lUdDRPTk7v-FmwocDj8IEps=

The video showed Charlie’s very first steps.  Notice how he keeps looking at his feet with wonder.  And for all of us, this was just the beginning.  Whether we like it or not, we are all lifelong learners.  Some of us learning consciously, a lot of us unconsciously.

Some of us learn how to make our lives better, and this is usually a conscious decision.  There are people who learn the hard way by making decisions which don’t honour themselves or others.  If you are a coach then you know the concept of “away from” motivation and “towards” motivation.  If you haven’t come across those terms, they describe whether your motivation to learn is to avoid pain or to seek pleasure.

An organisation which has a whole philosophy around “towards” learning would definitely be on my list of wants. In other words an organisation which supports and values learning and development is a must for my employer of choice.  Not only does this culture support the development of valuable skills, knowledge and competence; it also gives an employee a conscious and positive experience of learning and bringing out the best in them.

Unfortunately too often, organisations will slash the training budget or undervalue the learning experience as not their responsibility.  Some employers resist helping their people to develop beyond their current skill set for fear they will move on, taking their newly found skills with them.  These mind-sets actually teach something.  They teach their employees that they aren’t valuable and that the employers don’t support growth.

For employers who want to bring out their best in people and develop a learning culture as one of their cornerstones of being an employer of choice, here are my top tips:

  •  Wherever possible have a clear internal career path to allow employees to progress up the ranks
  • Support people with professional or specialism qualifications, either with time or money.  Tie in, if necessary as a condition, but not for too long.
  • Support personal development as well as skills and knowledge development.  Helping employees develop greater emotional intelligence, confidence or a sense of wellbeing through your learning activities, will definitely empower them, and pay dividends for you.
  • Support your employees to move on to pastures new, when it’s right for them.  It gives the right signals, and if people are free and encouraged to do the right thing for them, then they know you have their best interests at heart.  You will never lose the reputation for supporting them.
  • Use a multitude of learning opportunities.  Learning can be encouraged, when employees are working on projects, helping develop business plans, being involved in customer relationships etc.  If the learning potential for employees was articulated and defined, when they are helping to move the business on, then it creates a win/win culture.
  • If budgets are tight, consider developing your in-house expertise for disseminating skills and knowledge.  Have a skills register, so you can tap into the rich resource you may already have at your fingertips.  There is nothing more frustrating for an employee sitting there with requisite skills and you don’t make use of them.
  • Make sure that your learning culture is at the top of your communication strategy, both internally and externally.  Even if you aren’t recruiting right away, you will be at some point.  If your learning reputation is to go before you, then you need to articulate it at every opportunity.

What do you think?  Do you have any top tips?   Does your organisation support lifelong learning? I’d love to hear from you.

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