12 Practical Tips to Elevate “Culture of Learning” from Aspirational Buzzwords to Enterprise Reality

According to the World Economic Forum, more than 30% of the skills employees will need by 2020 are not considered crucial today. On-the-job training is officially required to keep pace with advancing technology. So, how do you foster a culture that values ongoing learning at a big company? It requires equal parts passion, policy, and planning:

  •         Company-wide passion
  •         Clear policies for learners and managers
  •         Thoughtful success planning

Here, 12 tips to give more than lip service to “culture of learning”:

Passion for Learning is a Company-Wide Commitment

  1. Find (lots of) program champions.

Does dedication to learning emanate from teams across your company, or does learning feel like a siloed, side department? It takes more than a new offering and an internal announcement to make support for learning a defining characteristic of your enterprise.

Convince leadership to advocate learning. Define program champions in cross-functional groups across the organization. Get everyone engaged and on a mission.

  1. Think long game, not short term.

Go beyond quick hit, learn-today/use-tomorrow skills training to build a learning program that supports long-term career development for employees. Offer Professional Certificates and MicroMasters™ programs designed to develop specialized expertise and advance careers.

Millennials, now more than one-third of the workforce, frequently cite opportunity for growth as a primary driver in job-hopping decisions. Creating clear advancement opportunities can increase employee retention.

  1. Celebrate cohorts.

Speaking of Millennials, we know they’d rather work—and learn—in teams than independently. Support that desire by creating collaborative learning programs for specific teams. Maybe a Data Science program for your coders or Digital Marketing certificates for the inbound specialists.

  1. Show love for soft skills.

Yes, keeping pace with evolving technology requires lots of hard skills development. But teaching soft skills—effective communication, critical thinking, leadership—spreads another kind of must-have capability in house.

Would it surprise you to know that Berkeley’s The Science of Happiness was one of the Top 10 classes completed by career-focused learners in 2016? Make it a plan to have well-rounded learning options. You’ll be rewarded with well-rounded employees that, studies prove, are also happier employees.

Defining Clear Policies is Significant Work, but Worth the Increased Participation

Often, employees don’t take advantage of learning opportunities because they lack clarity on the process and benefits. If your program is getting serious, you have to get serious about specifics.

  1. Create a learn-on-the-clock policy.

Motivated learners squeeze in self-paced coursework during the morning commute and over the weekend. If you want to increase participation rates, consider an official policy detailing how much on-the-job time can be spent engaged in approved learning programs. A little time every week can add up to big progress. Consider defining a dedicated, supportive space for learning—a place your cohorts want to go study together.

  1. Be transparent about costs.

Make sure there’s no employee uncertainty about who’s paying for what. Broadcast new tuition-reimbursement policies. Specify who pays for certificates. Lack of clarity on little details can be a barrier to employee participation. Are your learning policies due for a refresh?

  1. Establish an annual career-planning process.

Work with HR to do more than typical goal-setting during your annual review process. Take the opportunity to define both career objectives and related learning goals. Think of managers as academic advisors, helping employees refresh an annual learning plan and a 4-year advancement roadmap.

  1. Officially link learning to advancement.

EdSurge columnist Amy Ahearn suggests that MOOC completion data reveals power-skills employees. You want employees with the tenacity to finish courses, so make coursework a key milestone on paths to advancement. At some companies, a lack of interest in learning programs has a negative impact on an employee’s overall appraisal rating. The full leadership team should work together to create clear guidelines regarding rewards for learning program participation.

Plan for Success

  1. Create customized curriculum.

Whether you’re adding eLearning to launch blended in-person/online programs or expanding the depth of your digital learning options, you can create a custom program that supports your organization’s evolving needs. Consult with edX to find out more about our breadth of offerings for the workplace.

Survey employees to find out what they want to learn, so development of your digital learning program feels like a collaborative effort rather than a top-down dictate.

  1. Define your KPIs.

What are your goals, for the company and for your employees? What metrics will you track? Define target engagement and completion rates. Determine how you’ll gauge impact on employee retention and workplace performance. Have a plan for sharing results with your team of program champions and for collaborating with them on ongoing improvements.

  1. Use hard data to make program improvements.

With access to detailed learner behavior data, such as interest levels, success and failure rates, and time spent on everything from individual assignments to full courses, you’ll be well-informed to manage ongoing program improvements.

  1. Plan a routine to celebrate wins.

Think about how you can increase visibility of employee learning accomplishments. Bestow certificates at the all-hands meetings? Decorate desks in celebration? Invite grads to facilitate a team lunch-and-learn? Create a Slack channel to announce completions?  Come up with something and do it consistently so that employee awareness is high.