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Seb Burchell

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Learning culture: six ways to tell if your employees are learning


Your efforts to create a culture of learning within your organisation are worth nothing if your employees don’t truly embrace learning as part of their everyday activity. Here’s how to tell if the message is really getting through. 

In every facet of a business, there is a need for continual development and any employer needs to ensure that there is a strong ‘culture of learning’ in an office environment.

From personal development to ensuring employees have the skills, tools and knowledge they need to succeed in their role, learning can take many forms within a business environment.

A study by Leadership IQ found that only 42% of workers say they are always or frequently learning on the job, while another 39% say they are never or rarely learning.

Learning new skills adds value to both the employee and your business and the more they immerse themselves in the culture of learning, the more you can use it to your advantage.

Whether your employees have been with you from the start or you’re assessing the impact of your current induction process for new employees, we’re looking at six key ways to tell if your employees are learning.

1. Asking questions

It’s a fact that those who want to learn will be eager to ask questions to show their interest in learning about a subject, and to gain knowledge from those who are in a position to provide it.

The employee will acknowledge that learning directly from the source can be the best way to improve their direct work output, and may seek to get some mentoring or direction from a senior member of staff to help them progress with their goals.

Tom Jeffery head of E-Commerce at fashion designer and retailer, Jules B, suggests that weekly meetings have helped him see the progression of his staff. “Our weekly updates meetings on projects are a great way to allow individuals to ask focused questions related to current work topics. Over time those questions become increasingly complex reflecting their overall development”.

2. Active immersion

An employee who is successfully progressing and benefitting from their training will push themselves more in the workplace by actively immersing themselves in situations that may be out of their current list of responsibilities or job description.

For instance, positive scenarios should arise where new employees ask to sit in on client calls and have been actively taking notes - even though they don’t need to.

It’s also a fantastic sign when new recruits are asking to attend conferences that will widen their knowledge of the industry. These are all great indicators of someone who has what it takes to progress through their training and development programmes.

Stats and percentages may not always be able to give a clear picture of where your employees are on their learning journey, so it’s important to see the whole picture to understand their work performance.

Immersion doesn’t always have to take place in the workplace. Employees who are learning will be actively trying to find their place within the culture of the company. Networking events, conferences and company social events are all great places to develop an employee’s confidence in their role and gain a wider view of the industry as a whole.

3. Proactivity

Another way to tell if your employee is learning within the workplace is their proactivity level. A noticeable increase in proactivity is similar to active immersion in that they are using a higher level of initiative to take control of their own learning.

Jez Allen, co-owner of alternative fashion retailer Attitude Clothing identifies on personal experiences of new employees using their initiative. “In the past we’ve seen new recruits conducting extra research around a relevant project by finding external resources and relaying them back to the team. This not only highlights their engagement with their work, but it also enables productive discussions on the wider workings of your industry”.

4. Improved communication

Good communication is a key factor in any work environment. For Alex Jones, Marketing Manager at Westbrook Cycles, an independent bike shop in North Yorkshire, communication is a great indicator that his colleagues are learning.

“We’ve found that employees who are dedicated to furthering their own development will take the initiative to communicate with relevant employees without introduction,” he said. “Identifying those that can help teach and problem solve is a valuable skill for any employee and it shows a desire to take on more knowledge as they progress through employment”.

Communication doesn’t just happen in the workplace, motivated employees will take the opportunity to discover more about their industry, meeting new people socially and building the relationships they need to progress both personally and professionally.

5. Increased confidence

Whether it’s having the confidence to bring new ideas to a meeting, taking on more responsibilities or being able to come up with strong reasoning behind their ideas, having an increased sense of self-worth at work will no doubt work in the favour of both the individual and the employer.

Mark Buxton, marketing manager of Daniel Footwear, highlights how employees who display confidence is a good sign: “For new employees, gaining that initial boost of confidence is key and as an employer, we’ve found it generally means they’re on the right trajectory.

Creating a positive culture of learning in the workplace is crucial to a progressive, skilled workforce.

“We’ve seen confidence in employees displayed elsewhere for instance taking the time to committing to developing their professional skills by stepping outside of their comfort zone and immersing themselves in new environments”.

6. Work performance

Ultimately, overall work performance is a clear indicator of whether someone is learning and utilising their improved skill set to the best of their ability. An increase in output or, even better, an increase in the quality of their work should satisfy you that the training programme put in place has been beneficial.

Stats and percentages may not always be able to give a clear picture of where your employees are on their learning journey, so it’s important to see the whole picture to understand their work performance.

Employees who are happy in their job are typically those that will go the extra mile to learn more. Listen to feedback from clients, other employees and ‘higher ups’ to gauge whether your employees are progressing in their role.

Are they taking on additional work or helping others solve problems? All of these things will contribute to a better understanding of how your employees are focusing their own development.

Invest in staff learning to reap benefits

Investing in the effective training and development of your employees can bring endless benefits including a reduced staff turnover and increased profitability.

From attending group seminars, to embarking on individual e-learning, corporate training should be actively encouraged in order to support your employees and meet your own business objectives.

Whatever your training budget, there will be learning and development opportunities that provide mutual benefits for both the employer and employee.

Value your staff and train them effectively with the various development opportunities available to employers in order to build their self-esteem and create an efficient workforce.

Creating a positive culture of learning in the workplace is crucial to a progressive, skilled workforce.

As an employer, you take an active responsibility for enabling your employee's development and ensuring that they are well trained in order to meet the needs of the business.

Providing relevant training opportunities and empowering your workforce is key to encouraging learning and development but employers must not forget to interact with employees to find out what they need.

Developing a learning culture is about creating a true learning experience for your employees and a happy workforce is a motivated one.

Interested in this topic? Read How creating a learning culture can future-proof your organisation.

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