According to David Mallon of Bersin & Associates, if you want a high performance organization, it’s imperative that you build a learning culture. In his research of successful, high performing organizations, he’s found that “a culture of learning and a culture of high performance are significantly linked.” Intuitively, it makes sense that the smarter your organization is the better it can perform.
So, what is a learning culture, you might ask? Bersin & Associates define it as a “collective set of organizational values, conventions, processes and practices that continuously impels organizations and individuals to build knowledge, competence and performance.” And while a learning culture supports training and leadership development, it isn’t limited to formal development programs.
In Bersin’s comprehensive report, Mallon identifies 40 best practices and seven strategies that organizations can use to create a learning culture. Here is a sample:
- Assign staff to do jobs that surpass their skills and knowledge – Ask people to stretch. Use difficult assignments to encourage employees to push themselves to develop new skills and improve their old ones.
- Let people participate in selecting their assignments – Employees work hardest when their jobs and tasks interest them. Google takes advantage of this by permitting its engineers to devote a fifth of their time to personal projects.
- Recognize workers who learn new information and abilities – Provide rewards that show you care about each person’s learning.
- Value mistakes and failures – Employees learn best from their mistakes. Capitalize on errors as learning opportunities. And give people time to reflect on them.
- Emphasize learning as an important activity – Demonstrate its value in tangible ways; for example, make managers responsible for their staff’s professional development, not just their output. Actions always speak louder than words.
- Take a personal interest in the organizational capabilities of teams and individuals – Mentor the people you supervise.
During the next month, we’ll be exploring these ideas and more as we dive deeply into our next leadership competency of Building Organizational Talent. What strategies have you used to build a learning culture?