By Gunjan Ramchandani
Did you know that about 40% of the world’s food supply – including apples, tomatoes and strawberries – is dependent on pollination by honeybees? Cross-pollination is also responsible for the survival of 90 percent of wild plants. In fact, without bees to spread seeds, many plants including food crops would die and so would we.
So why is a Learning & Development professional penning down lines about bees and their significance? This analogy comes to my mind when I look at an environment where organizations focus largely on – ‘day to day business at hand’. The focus certainly needs to be towards earning the bread, butter and more that enhance organizational revenue in an obvious manner. However, it is suicidal to give a step-motherly treatment to learning efforts that aid in sharpening the skills required to make the business thrive.
With so much focus simply on day to day operations and executives claiming to have no time to indulge in learning more than the bare, minimum; organizations put themselves at huge risk. This risk becomes pronounced especially in today’s uncertain times where constant learning & unlearning, skilling and re-skilling is of greater importance than ever before.
According to the ‘Future of Jobs Report’ by the World Economic Forum, the top required skills for 2020 will be complex problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, people management & the ability to coordinate with others – most requiring a structured learning plan and intervention. But who has the time for that? And that brings me back to the example of the bees and their lack of recognition in the larger scheme of things. I am viewing learning as the honeybee that hasn’t really got its due place in the hierarchy of things. Sure, some basic learning of business and processes is considered indispensable but beyond that; elements such as enhancing managerial effectiveness, improving people management skills and creating transformational capability; a must in this VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) world are often given a cold shoulder due to ‘lack of time’ and demands of ‘immediate’ ROI.
So, if you have bought in to the essentiality of learning; what can you do to create a culture that sustains and provides momentum to constant learning? Here are some organizational support measures that should help. I am naming them as the 5Ls:
1. Leadership Commitment: Clearly, leadership influence and recommendation is a great motivator for most in an organization, in their resolve to learn. This fact is also ratified by the 2018 Workplace Learning report by LinkedIn which states that ‘managers matter’ and employees are ready to pick on learning recommended by their managers. There are examples where leaders drive learning not just by advocating it but also creating formal structures where participation in some key learning interventions become a part of the employee KRAs.
2. Learning Ease: While on the one hand, learners should be prepared to stretch to learn since it’s an investment in themselves; it’s also up to business leaders to allow and give room and time for learning. Learning interventions need to be designed in a manner that provide ease of learning in terms of ‘just in time’ learning. All learning solutions can’t be planned in a manner that stack up a group of learners inside a classroom. With technology – one can utilize digitized opportunities that provide for self-paced learning, learning in bites commonly known as micro learning and mobile learning. These enable lesser amount of time investment – as learning can be spanned across smaller and regular periods of period. In fact, this sort of learning is likely to stick longer.
3. Limitless Learning: In addition to various structured learning plans; a culture of learning can be facilitated by encouraging social learning. The fact that we are social animals and the increasing usage of social media is evidence that this can work within organizations. All it requires is inspiration and role modelling by senior leaders accompanied by access to a platform that is easy to use, with the right features to support learning. This effort towards ‘limitless learning’ can be stimulated further by exposing folks within an organization to industry speakers and best practices both via facilitating tie ups and talks by inviting industry bests or using mediums such WebEx or even sponsoring executives to attend relevant seminars and forums.
4. Learning ROI: Learning leaders need to take the responsibility of ensuring that the culture of learning sustains by ensuring that learning is planned in a manner that promotes accountability on part of the learners. For instance, there should be room to test if learners are demonstrating acquired learning on the job. While this can get fuzzy for some programs; even if learning leaders can get about 30-40% of their programmes designed to measure effectiveness at work; they would make their point. It’s a reality that L&D folks struggle to demonstrate ROI especially when it comes to leadership or behavioral learning; but this isn’t a gone case. They need to get innovative by using techniques such as getting learners to take up relevant projects basis the imparted learning, indulge in live observation of desired behaviors or even attempt to link relevant metrics to measure learning & its impact.
5. Learning Awards: It is well known that nothing inspires people like praise and recognition. If you can create a mechanism where learning is adequately recognized and rewarded, then you are providing a source of inspiration that seldom fails. You may call it gimmicky but this works – assigning badges / stars or any form of visible recognition by senior leaders provides a high to learners that promotes learning.
Going back to the case of honeybees that are instrumental in maintaining a sound ecosystem; a learning culture does the same in maintaining a sound organizational culture as it has the potential to make a positive dent in terms of infusing required skills, attitudes and even desired values. All that is needed is a commitment towards the 5Ls.
Gunjan Ramchandani is a senior Learning & Development professional at Encore Capital Group. She has over 16 years of experience in various learning forays including instructional design, training delivery, capability building and leadership & behavioral learning leveraging various forms of digitized and gamified learning. She is PMP and DISC certified and is also a diversity & inclusion champion. You can tweet to her at @Gunjan_R1