7 Ways to Create a Business Culture that Promotes Learning and Development

Every midmarket leader understands the need to create a strong business culture that facilitates knowledge sharing and learning. While creating such an organizational culture may seem like a soft, immeasurable goal - it's not. Encouraging learning and development at your middle market company can help you attract and retain talent, better develop and enhance employees' capabilities, and motivate everyone at the company to work at a higher level.

7 Ways to Create a Business Culture That Promotes Learning and Development

Learning cultures are more flexible, more adaptable to change, and more oriented to working across disciplines and departments to find effective solutions to problems. According to a study by Bersin & Associates, companies with business cultures that promote learning have 37 percent higher employee productivity and are 58 percent more likely to be capable of meeting the future demands of fast-changing markets. If the benefits of such a business culture are so obvious, what can you do to promote that type of culture within your middle market company? Here are seven suggestions:

  1. Understand the barriers to learning and sharing. A big obstacle is when key knowledge is trapped in departmental or upper-management silos. Are people so busy that they have no time for sharing best practices? Are there no incentives for coaching and sharing? Try to gauge the willingness and comfort level of learning and development within your company.
  2. Create, track, and incentivize sharing/learning indicators. If creating a learning culture is a priority, then treat it as such. Activities that are measured, tracked and compensated tend to get done within any business organization because they are clearly viewed as priorities.
  3. Set up structures to support and promote learning. Encourage employees to reflect on how tasks can be improved. Recognize employees that do a task well, and have them share their best practices through coaching sessions with other employees. This can be achieved through an informal setting such as a lunch and learn session.
  4. Use shared physical space to promote learning opportunities. Some middle market companies are so segregated into departments that people working in different areas don't often interact, which discourages sharing/learning experiences. Create a shared space and encourage gatherings to help promote cross-disciplinary communication.
  5. Consider internal systems that support sharing. The idea here is to collect and create a searchable archive of best practices and expertise for employee use. Global consulting giant PwC worked with Jive Software to create an internal social media platform, Spark, that allows people to post their experiences and lessons learned. Anyone at PwC can search a topic on Spark to find valuable insights and the contact information for experts in that department.
  6. Hire people who are open to learning and sharing. Systems and processes are vital to any business culture, but people are the most important part of that triangle. The opennness to sharing knowledge should be a value that's embedded not only within your current workforce, but also within potential new hires. You want employees with a high learning capacity, a curiosity to discover new ways of working, and a willingness to share what they learn.
  7. Have your leadership team engage in and promote learning. Middle market leaders should be clear when communicating what kind of business culture they're looking for, and they should be able to walk the walk. Set an example with your own learning and sharing practices, and continue to emphasize the importance of learning when communicating with the rest of the company.

Like any business transformation, building a culture is about integrating people, systems, and processes around the values and behaviors you want to be prevalent at your company. It takes midmarket leadership working with all levels over the long haul and putting the right incentives in place to achieve that.

What are some common areas that all employees could stand to improve in with the help of learning and development initiatives? Let us know what you think by commenting below.

Boston-based Chuck Leddy is an NCMM contributor and a freelance reporter who contributes regularly to The Boston Globe and Harvard Gazette. He also trains Fortune 500 executives in business-communication skills as an instructor for EF Education. Circle him on Google+.


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