Companies need employees who are able to continually learn in order to adapt to today’s changing marketplace. But creating a culture of learning is about more than just providing professional development classes. It’s a complete cultural shift that starts from the top and trickles down to every employee.

Placing a value on learning must start at the executive level. Senior managers may find that engaging in training produces a sense of vulnerability. However, ego is a hindrance to learning and it must be set aside. Every employee has room for improvement, including the CEO. The popular saying “practice what you preach” is vital when it comes to creating a culture of learning in the workplace. Employees will be motivated to seek out learning opportunities when they see this is something that practiced by those in leadership.

In addition to modelling a love of learning, management should strive to have an approachable, humble and open demeanor. This allows for creative and innovative collaboration among employees. Embrace open communication and encourage employees to go outside of their normal hierarchy structure with ideas, constructive comments and questions.

Encourage a healthy learning environment by allowing for failure. Employees should feel they can take an acceptable amount of risk to practice and experiment with new ideas. This means that management shouldn’t focus on finding blame for the last mistake, but on encouraging employees to continue to look for ways to improve in a safe environment. After all, the type of learning that characterizes successful companies is not simply amassing large amounts of knowledge, but rather becoming a creative problem solver.

Don’t forget to reward the type of learning behavior that you say you want. The fire to learn will quickly be snuffed out if employees don’t feel their efforts are noticed or appreciated. When it comes to rewarding the correct behavior, look at not only the results, but also the processes used to achieve those results.

There are many different types of training opportunities for employers to take advantage of. From online classes to hands-on training to interactive classrooms. However, not all training is created equal. Wasting time and money on ineffective training will not foster the type of culture which values learning. Human Resource teams should test new training using a small control group before deciding to roll-out new training on an entire company.

The desire to learn, innovate and contribute toward the company’s mission is within every employee. Unleashing that desire can be done by managers who are able to model a love of learning, discourage complacency and give employees a safe and constructive environment to learn in.

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