Learning Cultures are Critical

business learning culture One of the requirements of the current, younger workforce (Millennial’s, Gen X, Gen Y) is personal education. In other words, what they are saying to employers is “what’s in it for me to stay here?” And what they are looking for is a way to advance their career, their resume, their credentials so that when they leave, they are more marketable than when they came.  This also means that they will not be with you for long, 2-3 years is about the amount of their lives they will consider committing to. This is vastly different for those of us over 50 who were told to make a career at a company or at least in the same field. (I have failed at both!)

So how do entrepreneurs accommodate this new reality?  It means adopting a learning culture and organization. It’s not about offering a class or two, it’s about establishing it throughout your whole company. An easy way to start is to have a development plan for each employee. This needs to be separate from their annual review form or at the very least, incorporated into it so that it is a living document that doesn’t get filed away, never to be seen again. When a new employee starts, have the manager sit down with them and say, what do you hope to learn or how would you like to grow in the next 2-3 years and how can we help you do that? Don’t e shy about saying, we know that is probably the amount of time we have with you so we want it to be good for us both. Almost like saying, we know we’ll break up so let’s make it good while it lasts!

Identify specific goals they have for advanced learning or skills they wish to acquire and work with them to identify if and how the company can help. Be realistic, this doesn’t mean breaking your budget for training on one person. What it means is coming up with a plan that you can assist with as long as they are employed there, within reason.  Every employee should have a unique plan because they will each have different goals and dreams. This is not the “where would you like to be in 5 years” conversation. It’s about helping them, help you and vice versa. Keep it simple, list 3-5 learning goals and how and when you will address each. You don’t need to figure it out for them, figure it out with them. They should have a say in their development and will, in fact, want input. Like most of us, they do not want to be told what you have decided is best for them. Make it a partnership.

There are likely themes that you will run across that all employees will need training on. This is when you would organize a speaker, training or class for everyone to go to. Evaluate all training through the lens of “how it will benefit the company and the employee” and you will quickly see which themes emerge for group training and which are individual in nature. However, all should benefit the company in some way, even if it’s to make the employee feel valued. I would not, however, offer training in a completely unrelated field, just because it was asked for. Think about the criteria you have as an organization prior to discussing anything with the employees. If it’s a partnership, it’s mutually beneficial.

Larger organizations have Chief Learning Officers, however, smaller companies just need each manager to pay attention to the development needs of their direct reports.  The CEO needs to pay attention to his or her management teams development needs.  The value to the organization will be more productivity, happier and smarter employees!