Creating a Culture of Learning - #2

According to urban legend in baseball circles, Oakland Athletics' GM was concerned with a million dollar cheque that had been given as a signing bonus to new-comer Rickey Henderson - but it had not been cashed.

After a few months of waiting this out, the owner broached the topic with the baseball star, who replied that he had framed the cheque, and was hanging it on his wall. Rickey Henderson could not believe that a team was willing to pay him a million dollars to compete in the sport he loved.

There are plenty of stories about athletes who turn professional, and are suddenly inundated with free nutritional advice, psychological coaching, product and perks. At first, most of these athletes can’t believe their treatment! All of these goods seem like a luxury, far removed from their prior lives. However, once they begin the rigours of professional competition, they recognise that psychology sessions and strict nutritional help is essential if they want to compete.

What seemed to be a luxury good is a necessity in the world of elite athletes.

Learning opportunities within the work week are comparable to these luxury goods. At first, they seem like a frivolous luxury reserved for “trendy” companies with more dollars than sense. However, to create a culture of learning within your organisation - and thus to be continually thinking, creating and developing - learning opportunities are an absolute necessity for your organisation.

Opportunities for employees to further their learning should not just be restricted to top-level managers, and should not be restricted to professional seminars and development. There are many efficient ways to create learning opportunities within your organisation, and to step towards creating a culture of learning.

Shift Your Values

Before you begin implementing action, you must shift your values towards learning opportunities. Many organisations are quick to try new ideas, without being willing to support them in the long-term. Creating learning opportunities will cost in the short-term (with worker’s allocating some of their allotted time to learning and development) but will pay off with increased ideas, loyalty and skills in the long-term.

Research from the University of Oklahoma and Winona State University (cited in the International Journal of Business, 2012) discovered that overall creativity in an organisation was affected by the learning culture of an organisation more than any other factor. Shift your values and your beliefs to creating this culture.

Ask Questions

A simple way to begin creating learning opportunities is to show your employees that you value education. Ask others at your organisations questions about what they have been reading recently. Listen well, and ask questions of the books that they are currently reading - show your employees you value this learning. Ask for their opinions on current events, recent innovations and opportunities in your sector. Do not be satisfied with simple answers - ask open questions, and pursue informed ideas.

Buy Books

Many organisations associate “learning” with “seminars”, and assume any learning opportunities will involve expensive, all-day training. Although this training is definitely valuable, it is often used only a few times a year at most, which does not create a continuous culture of learning. Also, as a manager or employer, you do not have control over what the trainer will say, and there are many times you have to follow a training-session up with a “translation-session” - adapting the ideas into your environment.

Books are a much cheaper way of developing ongoing education within your organisation.

Regularly purchasing books as gifts for your employees will not only build loyalty and appreciation amongst your staff, but will also allow you to gain shared language and shared ideas to debate and discuss. These books could be directly related to your organisation’s field, or could be in an entirely different subject - regardless, if they are a catalyst to deeper questions and conversation, they will help build an ongoing learning culture.