We’re in the knowledge business, and those firms that do the best job of imparting knowledge, developing skills, and building future capacity have the best prospects for long-term success and competitive advantage. In this blog, we’ll explore ideas to help you enhance your firm’s learning culture and make a commitment to life-long learning.
What is a Learning Culture?
A learning culture is one where everyone in your firm is committed to gaining new skills, exploring new behaviors, and furthering your collective understanding of the issues facing your firm and clients.
To develop a learning culture, you must first model a top-down commitment to learning, starting with your firm’s leaders (including your CEO, Managing Partner, partner group, and other key managers) by:
- Expressing your commitment to learning
- Investing time, money, and resources to demonstrate your commitment to learning
- Recognizing the importance of life-long learning, where you believe that YOU can always personally improve, no matter your age or experience level, and modeling your commitment to continuous learning by attending conferences and courses, reading books, and changing your behaviors based on your learning
- Designating a learning function in the firm, assigning an owner to it, and then making sure that there are a variety of learning opportunities offered to all people, at all levels in your firm
- Measuring the impact that learning has on your firm and holding your leaders accountable for learning results
Do As I Say and As I Do
To commit to life-long learning, it may mean humbling yourself and admitting that you can still improve, learn new things, and change behaviors at any stage of your career. Most of us want to feel like we’ve reached a certain level that makes us teachers, not learners, and that we need to facilitate others in their learning – but not focus as much on our own.
When we take this approach, two things can happen. First, resisting your own personal development and growth can be disheartening to your team, because they see your areas for improvement and are interested in seeing you improve, too. Second, when you act as if you are “above” learning, then others begin to rationalize that their experience or level somehow lets them off the hook, too, and your organization starts to decline in its accumulation of knowledge capital.
When you recommit to learning yourself, we’re not talking about a verbal commitment. Instead, we suggest that you demonstrate your belief by showing up at learning functions, paying attention, participating, asking questions, and staying for the entire event, no matter how busy you are or how important your work is outside of the learning event.
Adopt a Learner-Led Learning Approach
Another key to developing a learning culture is to establish the expectation that each learner will drive their own learning experiences. In educational circles, this is called learner-led learning, where the onus to take ownership of the learning roadmap and ensure that they receive the training and education they need lies with the student or learner.
At ConvergenceCoaching, we advocate starting this on day one by giving all new employees a New Employee Orientation Checklist having them take ownership to complete it, versus putting the impetus on the always-busy hiring manager to manage the process to make sure it happens. You can keep this momentum going by implementing Individual Learning Roadmaps and assigning clear ownership of each Roadmap to the learner themselves. Learners who drive their own learning will participate more fully and make sure that they gain the information they need in a way that enables them to genuinely assimilate it into knowledge. *If you are interested in the tools mentioned here, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
To develop a learning culture, make a top-down leadership commitment to learning, model the expected learning behaviors yourself, and implement a learner-led learning approach. When you do, you’ll improve client service, increase capacity, enhance team performance, and boost employee satisfaction and retention, too. Begin enhancing your firm’s learning culture today!
About the Author
Jennifer Wilson is a partner and co-founder of ConvergenceCoaching, LLC, a leadership and management coaching, consulting and training firm that specializes in helping leaders achieve success. Learn more about the company and its services at www.convergencecoaching.com.