Why all companies should embrace a learning culture

Driven by continuously changing technology, customer behaviour and market conditions, the business culture is always evolving. Across most industries, the hallmarks of a successful business today may not necessarily be the same as what it will take to drive a business to success in the future.

In the current climate, the risk of employees’ skills and experiences becoming quickly outdated has never been greater. Indicative of the fast pace of change, research shows half of the most in-demand skills listed in 2018 were not listed three years earlier.

As companies navigate this shifting landscape, corporate leaders must think a few steps ahead in order to prevent their business from falling behind.

In order to stay relevant, business leaders must embrace a culture of continuous learning and development to ensure their workforces are equipped to adapt at a fast pace. Business leaders that approach upskilling and professional education as a strategic asset, not just an interruption or a token offering, will reap the benefits of an adaptable, agile and technically skilled workforce.

Closing the gap on skills shortages

Developing a culture of organisational learning and development will be essential for business leaders challenged by growing skills shortages as the market struggles to keep pace with changing demands. Based on a survey of Australian hiring managers commissioned by Robert Half, 78% of respondents say it will become more challenging to find qualified professionals in the coming five years.

Technology is becoming increasingly recognised as key to achieving operational excellence, improved customer experiences and better business outcomes, as well as being an enabler of fundamental innovation and disruption. It’s not surprising that a report by Accenture highlights how education and new learning techniques will be integral to closing the skills gap as technology reshapes the nature of work.

The Robert Half survey also reveals that almost a third (29%) of Australian CIOs think that increased collaboration with education providers and universities is the primary solution to alleviating the skills shortage in the technology field.

In a skills-short market, embracing a culture of continuous learning is also integral to understanding and adapting to changing customer behaviours and market conditions – and it’s also important for attracting and retaining workers.

With as many as 31% of employees having quit a job within the first six months because of a lack of supported learning, it’s clear many employees value learning and development as a way to progress their careers.

How to implement continuous learning across a company

As a leader in the current business environment, there are probably several goals you want to achieve as part of your own professional development, whether they are related to improving certain skills or gaining new qualifications, among others. Sharing your own development goals with the wider organisation, as well as explaining how you will accomplish them, could go a long way towards inspiring others to do the same.

To encourage employees in your organisation to embrace learning as part of their job, leaders must focus on facilitating positive learning experiences. For example, employees must be given the resources and time to devote to ongoing training and development without the risk of increasing stress from mounting workloads or being interrupted by emails or phone calls.

What’s more, it’s important to recognise and reward the efforts of employees who undertake professional development programs while ensuring managers are equipped to engage in discussions about how new skills will fit into the employee’s role.

While employees should be encouraged and supported to take control of their own professional development, community focused and collaborative learning experiences can also be invaluable to promoting a learning culture.

Initiatives to get as many people involved in learning as possible – whether it be sharing knowledge or gaining new skills – could include mentoring programs, lunch and learn sessions involving guest experts, and face-to-face group coaching.

Depending on available resources, there are companies who have a staff development department, dedicated primarily to the ongoing professional development of its employees.

To implement a true learning culture in your business, it’s important to remember that culture – of any kind – starts at the top. While it’s vital to have policies in place to ensure certain things happen, leading by example and promoting a few continuous learning behaviours will be key to changing attitudes across the organisation.