How to foster a learning environment at work

Opportunities to learn are everywhere. If only one opens their mind to it. Just how open are our minds to learn Most of us live a lifetime on pre conceived notions, unreviewed and unrevised thought processes and we fall back on canned approaches to all aspects of life. This is because our brain after all is a muscle. And a lazy one. Unless you push it to do things differently it is happy to perform along the set path.

According to a survey done by Gallup, 87% of millenials think learning and self development is important in a job. According to the report ‘How Millenials Want to Work and Live, “59% of millennials say opportunities to learn and grow are extremely important to them when applying for a job.” Therefore motivating employees to learn new skills in the workplace should be an important goal for many organizations.

Managers and leaders must create work places that nudge people out of their comfort zones and exercise their minds to learn continuously. In order to foster continuous learning at the work place, one must make learning a part of the everyday and make learning fun.

1. Be accepting of failure and reward learning

A fun evening at the bowling arena with kids threw up some interesting observations on the correlation between learning and failure. When we are in the process of learning something new we are bound to fail at it at first and maybe many times over until we reach some level of mastery over it. Like in the bowling alley, unless you have thrown the ball a few times it is likely that the ball finds itself mostly in the gutter. But I am yet to see someone who does not finish his 20 turns even if every ball traverses only the gutter. This is because, we think its just a fun evening of bowling. While we try our best to get the pins, it is okay to fail.

When there is acceptance and room to fail, people don’t mind taking the chances. The pressure of being ridiculed for failure is a very strong deterrent for many people and this stops them from trying new things and hence learning new skills becomes few a far apart.

It is thus imperative that workplaces foster a positive learning culture where it is okay to try something new and fail at it.

Managers can do this by valuing and rewarding efforts; rewarding learning rather than just rewarding accomplishments.

2. Make learning fun and interesting

As with the bowling arena, one is willing to try their hand at learning something new as long as it is fun. Build fun learning into your everyday processes.

In the past, IBM has used Credly, a digital credentialing platform which acquired Pearson’s Acclaim badging business, to engage employees with its educational offerings. Through this program, employees can earn digital badges based on completion of their courses and demonstrate acquired skills. This kind of digital badging approach not only employs gamification principles but also encourages social currency since employees can post their badges on LinkedIn profiles.

By building learning into the process and making it engaging, managers can motivate employees to embrace learning with out it becoming a chore.