Senior Strategist

How Do Companies Train and Develop Employees? 3 Steps To Create a Culture of Learning

How do companies train and develop employees? It’s important. After all, when your team members are operating at the top of their games, it moves the entire company forward. Companies that invest in creating a culture of learning cultivate team members who are high-performing, highly engaged, and always learning. And when your employees are happy, it turns out your customers are happier, too.

But what is a culture of learning? And how can organizations get started with cultivating a learning-centric culture? A culture of learning is one in which team members continuously seek, share, and apply new knowledge and skills to improve individual and organizational performance.

It takes a lot of strategy and effort to create the kinds of learning experiences that lead to a thriving learning culture. Your learning must resonate with your learners and lead to real, measurable behavior change. Hosting a one-off workshop or sending employees to an annual convention won’t cut it.

So, how do companies train and develop employees the right way? Let’s take a look at the factors that influence employee engagement and how to build a culture of learning that motivates learners and helps them grow.

1. Understand employee engagement

Engaged team members perform better, are less burned out, and stick with your organization longer.

Many leaders make assumptions about what motivates their team members and many of those assumptions miss the mark. There’s a real danger in misidentifying employee motivations and applying the wrong strategy can actually make matters worse.

HBR’s Employee Engagement Checklist points us to one of several critical factors for high engagement that can help inform how companies train employees. Employees want to connect the work they do to what they care about. In other words, employees must feel aligned with the organization’s purpose and values. In purpose-driven organizations, employees feel connected to the organization’s purpose and see how their day-to-day work makes an impact on that mission. Prioritizing a learning culture is just one way to demonstrate that you’re invested in your team’s success inside and outside of work.

HBR’s research also found that employees desired for the work itself to be less stressful and more enjoyable. Along with offering employees more autonomy and flexibility in the work they do and how they do it, it’s also key to boosting employee confidence through learning. Make it an organizational priority to continually train and develop employees. When employees have access to quality, ongoing learning support, they can tackle their work with more confidence and precision.

2. Focus on learning that drives behavior change

We’ve covered what motivates employees, now let’s talk about how to craft learning experiences that help drive engagement. It’s not so much a question of how do companies train and develop employees—it’s about how you’re investing in their overall growth as human beings. People want to grow and build their skills in the areas they care most about. Career growth and development allows you to invest in the individual growth of your team members, which ultimately helps your organization reach its fullest potential, too.

The key word here is growth: it’s not enough to simply deliver information. How do you know if your learning is actually helping learners grow or if it’s simply checking a box? Effective learning inspires real, meaningful, long-term change in the behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs of learners.

If your past training efforts have had disappointing results, you’re not alone. Many companies struggle to train and develop employees and get stuck in a rut of one-off learning events and training efforts that get lost in the shuffle of day-to-day operations.

Instead, focus on learning experiences that require learners to do more than simply react to an experience or recall information. Real-world application and reflection round out the learning process and help learners cross the behavior change finish line.

Get learner buy-in

Are your learning efforts suffering from low engagement? You might be missing learner buy-in. Learners should understand the ‘why’ behind every learning experience you put in front of them. Be clear about the value of the experience, what’s in it for them, and what’s in it for the company.

Remember that purpose matters to your employees. Purpose and values should be part of how companies train employees. How can you tie your learning back to your organization’s overall purpose? When learners understand why the experience is relevant, it’s more likely to resonate.

3. Create learning that meets people where they are

In a true learning culture, learning opportunities are embedded into every aspect of the organization. That way, learners are regularly and organically experiencing the full cycle of the learning process: they learn something new, have the opportunity to apply it, and they work with a leader or mentor to receive feedback.

How do companies train and develop employees through a culture of learning? There’s no master blueprint that can be applied across organizations. It’s critical to stay connected to your learners and deeply understand the kinds of learning experiences that work best for them. Use learner feedback tools to get input on what they need, the challenges they face, and what motivates them.

Learning should be designed to directly address what’s relevant for your intended audience. Within your organization, different learning experiences will work best for different teams. For example, scenario-based learning is an effective way to train and develop employees who are new and still learning the ropes, while live coaching might be a better fit for your sales team looking to perfect a pitch.

A culture of learning is the foundation of organizational success

Quality learning and development is critical to any successful business and people strategy. A culture of learning is the ultimate investment in the success of your people: it embeds learning into the fabric of your company so that employees always feel valued. Ultimately, your customers reap the benefits of a confident, competent culture.

Want to get inside your learners’ heads?

Check out tools for gathering learner feedback.

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