Leveraging human capital through the right learning culture
Creating the right learning culture
By our Senior Manager Peter Tordeur
A rapidly changing world also means that the competencies we expect from our employees are changing rapidly. More than ever, employees are expected to act as “entrepreneurs”, to shape their careers themselves and to continuously hone their personal competencies. This expectation also places a certain responsibility on the employer: you must be able to offer the resources to meet the employee’s personal ambitions and frame them, as much as possible, within the company’s strategic objectives. With the half-life of professional knowledge noticeably diminishing, gamification of training and micro-learning can also play an important role in creating the right learning culture.
But it is not only up to the employer to create this framework of continuous learning. This arduous task begins with the government and, more specifically, the educational system.
They bear the heavy responsibility for providing the necessary infrastructure to familiarize (young) students with the rapidly evolving labor market at an early stage. It is difficult to learn new technologies from books or (for the older generation) practice sheets. Making these new technologies available will require quite an investment in both money and teaching method.
Moreover, the educational system can ensure the younger generation knows how to use these technologies, but the system must also enable these upcoming professionals to use them wisely. This means they need to be taught the risks involved, without making them lose their confidence. Additionally, a framework needs to be created in which their adaptability is put to the test. One that that stimulates their hunger for continuous learning and drives them to stay flexible while doing so. These are crucial skills that will be expected of (young) employees in their later careers.
Back to the employer’s role in this story
On the one hand, employees are being asked for an increasing amount of flexibility (in terms of effort and knowledge), efficiency and productivity. On the other hand, these same employees also have a greater need themselves for flexibility, work/life balance and opportunities for advancement.
In this context, it is becoming increasingly difficult to have your employees follow training courses in the traditional way (classroom training), and even e-learning is no longer sufficient to meet the ever-present need for information.
The key question is therefore: how do I get the right information and the right knowledge to my employees at the right time and within the right context?
Unfortunately, the answer is far from being straightforward. Luckily, there are a few golden rules that you, as an employer, can rely on:
1) Be future-minded and innovative
As an employer you must map out the functions and activities of your employees as well as possible and compare them to the knowledge and competencies that are needed in return. This is not an easy task, because if you limit yourself to a ‘snapshot’ of a situation, you will always be chasing the facts. Preparing and providing information and training material also takes time and sometimes the material is already outdated before it is published. This makes it very difficult for management and support services such as HR to anticipate which knowledge will be needed within 6 months to 1 year (the time needed to get knowledge to your employees). The often rapidly evolving context makes it even harder. To counter this an employer should focus on three things: talent management, innovation and the development of a positive learning culture within the company. For example, by facilitating collaborative learning and introducing gamification.
2) Be motivating and trustworthy
Establishing a dynamic learning culture means motivating and inspiring your employees to continuously learn and to contribute to the available training material themselves. However, employers must first create an open atmosphere for their employees by giving them the necessary space to thrive in. Such an environment can be achieved by offering flexibility in terms of learning possibilities and giving trust to employees and their respective managers. In this “new leadership”, a manager no longer puts the focus on, for example, hours worked, but rather on results-oriented work and knowledge building within the team and the company. That is why it also requires more trust from the company. Trust that the focus is placed on knowledge building within the domains that fit the strategic objectives. But also, that the opportunities for (personal) growth that are offered are not abused.
3) Be a facilitator, rather than a dictator
In certain contexts, it is of course required that your employees have certain competencies and trainings, certificates, degrees, etc. As a manager, you must make sure that these are met as much as possible. On the other hand, you also want to give your employees the opportunity to explore other paths and take on new challenges within the context of your company. The cost of attracting new employees within the current context (the “war on talent” rages more fiercely than ever) is many times greater than investing in a sustainable learning culture. One that allows internal employees to grow into positions within your company that are more difficult to fill.
Investing in this learning culture is therefore more rewarding than ever. So, consider creating a solid learning platform that offers these opportunities as a kind of “roadmap” on which the employees can set out out their own route. And by doing so you will leverage your company’s human capital tremendously.
Speaking of a learning platform
How you develop a solid learning platform is still strongly evolving. As a company, you can no longer focus on the classic classroom training. Only focusing on e-learnings, webinars, micro-learnings, context-sensitive help functions, and coaching programs for example, is not sufficient either. You need more.
“Learning ecosystems” are still virtually unavailable or become totally unmanageable after some time. It is still too difficult to simultaneously take into account the employee’s current position, his career path, the available career paths, his work environment (e.g. hazardous environments) and his work-related context (which applications or machines he uses, whether he has a temporary role, …). But also, for example, the employee’s ambitions, so that he has sufficient growth perspectives. The (slow) introduction of AI (artificial intelligence) in the learning environment could be a solution, but the technology is still in its infancy.
So, what can you as an employer do? If you want to stimulate a (collaborative) learning culture with room for continuous learning, opt for the widest possible range of mediums and possibilities. Make sure your employees can consult the right training material at any time. Employees can then choose to learn depending on their available time, ambitions, and specific needs. Additionally, they can choose to supplement the relevant information through a (hopefully) central management platform at the time, the location and in the way (via a short recording, for example) that fits them best.