So far in 2021, an astonishing 1 in 4 US workers has quit their job. The media calls this trend The Great Resignation.
Change in the workplace was accelerating even before the global pandemic disrupted the traditional workday. Technology "natives" who grew up with smart technology are reshaping expectations about work.
With increasing life spans, people of all ages now realize that lifelong learning is a must for employees to move ahead. Companies are looking for ways to engage employees and reduce turnover. Employers are beginning to prioritize new ways to create learning opportunities.
So how do we create a culture of learning opportunities? Check out 15 tips to increase learning opportunities for your business and employees.
Engagement studies show that learning opportunities at work tops the list for happy employees. Opportunities to learn and grow rank even higher than professional development and moving up the career ladder.
The research from Deloitte shows the impact of a solid learning culture:
• 30 - 50 percent higher retention and engagement
• 92 percent more likely to innovate
• 56 percent more likely to beat competitors to market
• 52 percent better productivity
• 17 percent more profitable than their peers
Businesses that provide learning opportunities create a win-win scenario. They attract and retain employees and enjoy better performance.
Buddhism encourages us to approach the world with a “beginner's mind.” This means dropping the belief that we already know the answer just because we have expertise in a subject.
The “curse of knowledge” concept is related to this idea. Once we attain mastery over a topic, we may forget what it was like before we had that knowledge.
One way to spark new insights is to review assumptions. Ask, “And why is that?” repeatedly to dive below the obvious answers. Continually questioning our assumptions helps to break down the source of what we think we know. This can lead to relearning with new insights.
Thousands of books, online articles, and videos are created for the executive audience. Business performance content often follows trends.
As similar articles retread the same concepts, leaders start to feel like they are in an echo chamber. Spending time with different topics leads to fresh ideas. The worlds of art, design, history, or spirituality are new learning opportunities.
Engaging our whole brain is vital for learning, too. Professional learning opportunities exist outside the business theme content silo. Make time to unplug from business-focused content. It’s essential to engage our nonverbal subconscious.
Contact with nature benefits both mental and physical health. Something as simple as walking around the block or a weekend nature retreat helps. Nature helps dislodge hidden connections from our subconscious.
In the post-pandemic era, the world is changing faster than ever. With all the uncertainty, people are looking for their place in the flow. Employees feel more engaged with a company’s direction if they understand how that relates to the greater context of the future of business and society.
Create learning opportunities to learn more about the innovations reshaping things central to people’s lives. For example, the finance and health care sectors are experiencing significant change.
Create templates to help people visualize and share their ideal future. Provide resources to people to map out how the Internet of Things (IoT) will affect their home and work life going forward.
Diversity in the workplace is more than just different types of people working together. To reap the benefits, people need opportunities to learn about their differences. Many large companies have designated Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) initiatives.
Smaller businesses can take some cues from classroom strategies to build intercultural confidence.
The essential key is to create learning opportunities about each other. Make it easy and fun for employees to share their culture. From team-building exercises to sharing different kinds of foods, learning helps people relate to one another.
Our comfort zone is usually our biggest enemy towards learning and growth. Most people will admit they made the most progress in life from moving through uncomfortable situations.
New and innovative solutions rarely come from the status quo. Even if the goal doesn’t work out to be a “success,” people learn from stepping up to a challenge.
To reap the benefits of innovative successes, failures are inevitable. Prioritizing learning opportunities means creating that culture of tolerance. Employees in a safe environment for trying things out are much more likely to take on stretch goals.
A stretch goal doesn’t have to be performance-oriented, either. Service learning opportunities can safely place volunteers outside of their comfort zone. Working with people in different economic or social situations can provide eye-opening learning experiences.
Most organizations have a library of expertise locked up inside the heads of company leaders.
Create a structure to gather and record expert perspectives and wisdom. Employees can interview each other and post recorded zoom interviews. Podcasts don’t have to be for the general public. An internal podcast that people can listen to outside the workplace means learning can take place away from the office.
Prioritize collecting content from gatherings, too. From small retreats to yearly conferences, companies can document presentations. This builds a rich library of learning opportunities to repurpose for years to come.
Chip Conley founded the Modern Elder movement based on his experience as a midlife mentor. Working alongside millennials opened his eyes to the power of intergenerational mentoring.
As a consultant in the hospitality industry, he learned that mentoring is a two-way street. A common understanding that every generation has valuable insights leads to new learning opportunities.
David Allison is an author and founder of Valuegraphics. His data shows that stereotypes about age groups are outdated. People agree on values more than generational commonalities.
His data shows that similar age groups agree on wants and needs less than 20% of the time. People of different ages with shared values often agree on wants and needs over 80% of the time.
Co-mentoring between people with similar values, regardless of age, can create a powerful synergy for learning.
Is your workspace set up to help you access and integrate answers to questions as they come up? People have higher retention in learning when they can get answers to questions that are related to a bigger context.
Be sure that workers and teams have the tools available at their fingertips to answer questions that come up during the day.
In training sessions, watch for a balance of teaching vs. doing. Be sure employees have a chance to write things down or take actions to reinforce training concepts. Build in time for questions that expand the vision. Help people relate those new insights back to the present moment.
Google has a policy to encourage employees to explore something new outside of their normal job. They can spend 20% of their week on new learning.
This is an acknowledgment that human creativity is cross-functional. Making new connections sparks innovation.
Encouraging people to calendarize new learning on their calendar, just like a regular meeting, increases the likelihood that it will happen.
Areas for improvement are full of learning opportunities. Many people are hesitant to look under the rock. They don’t want to bring up uncomfortable topics for fear of rejection or humiliation.
Companies benefit from creating an environment of respect and trust. The concept of psychological safety is knowing you won’t be punished or humiliated for speaking up. A psychologically safe workplace is much more conducive to learning opportunities.
Prioritizing empathy in the workplace is essential. Facilitating meetings can mean everyone has a chance to speak up. Both of these actions can lead to uncovering more diverse viewpoints.
Systems for learning from failures signal that failure is seen as a learning tool, not a black mark on someone’s career progress.
The online education industry is growing with no end in sight. This means many high-quality learning courses are either free or low-cost. Create a curated list of portals to encourage employees to learn something new. Some popular mainstream portals include:
• LinkedIn learning
• Free or low-cost courses from top universities
• A curated list of TedTalks
Creating curated learning resources signals to employees that learning is an ongoing core value for the company.
Psychologist Daniel Pink wrote that people are driven by “autonomy, mastery, and purpose.” What does that mean for learning opportunities? It means people like to have a choice in what they practice and master and know the reason for doing so.
A blank page can be a hard place to start a learning path. People don’t respond to cookie-cutter outlines that don’t feel personalized. Create a balance to help people make progress and signal that you are interested in how they are doing.
Encourage people to maintain a “to learn” list. Create a guide to help them move items from the list to an action plan. Provide them with the framework to build in milestones and due dates so they prioritize their progress.
Personalized learning is important. However, the organizational benefit really expands when individuals share their knowledge. Oprah says that the one thing every one of her 30,000 guests had in common was this validation. People want to be seen, heard, and make a difference.
Create regular collaborative opportunities for people to share what they have learned. Update meetings become learning opportunities, too. Be sure there are tools for capturing new insights and enabling group discussion.
Diversity in the workplace is not just cultural. Different departments do different things. People better understand their own job when they see how it fits into the bigger picture.
Opportunities to cross-train encourage new learning. One idea is to curate an internal “university” that describes each department’s function. Workers can earn “advanced degrees” from learning about other departments.
Learning is a mental process taking place in a 3D world. Thoughts need hands-on ways to get out of our heads. It's hard to share new learning without showing your ideas.
The quality of our physical spaces has a big impact on the learning experience. Some things that improve our learning include:
• Noise level - noise can distract or energize spaces in open workplaces
• Colors - color affects human emotions and energy levels
• Clutter - some people learn better in cozy spaces while others crave minimalism
• Context - physical objects in the area relate to or reinforce the learning objective
• Nature - plants, fish tanks, interior courtyards create rest stops for the busy brain
Opportunities for sharing may come up outside of the office conference room. Innovative companies want to capture inspiration on the fly. This is one reason flexible movable whiteboards are becoming ubiquitous in business.
Essentials for Ongoing Learning Opportunities
Remote work, virtual technology, and social connections are all contributing to a workforce revolution. Controlling turnover is now a critical competitive advantage.
Companies that facilitate ongoing learning opportunities have a higher chance of retaining employees.
One of the best ways to encourage learning opportunities on-site is to create spaces that support how people prefer to learn in real-time. At Clarus, we have a wide variety of beautiful, functional, and flexible glass whiteboard surfaces. Our solutions transform generic spaces into in-the-moment learning labs.
Movable products like our Flex-Glass Portable Glass Whiteboard System adapt to individual preferences. They create intelligent, useful divisions in open spaces. If these ideas have sparked any questions for you, let us know. We’d love to talk.