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The Link between Learning Culture and Performance

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Above: for the last six years, lack of career development has, by far, been the top reason people voluntarily leave an organisation has been lack of career development. [Source.]


Article origionally published by Diane Law on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/link-between-learning-culture-performance-diane-law/


Here’s the challenge – how do we ensure that what people learn is not only retained but can be applied back in the workplace to improve performance? Afterall, that’s why organisations invest in learning and development – to improve capability and increase motivation that will make a real and sustainable difference in the quality of work done.

We are all aware that, faster than ever before, the world of work is changing. Technological advancement, changing workforce demographics, global integration and increased competition have meant that approaches and attitudes towards work have transformed. Equally, how people are ‘trained’ has been evolving over the years. There is now a greater focus on learning in the flow of work, micro-learning, social learning and digitally enhanced learning. There are thousands of books and articles written about the benefits of these approaches, but much of it focuses on the theory of what organisations should be doing, and not on how to implement and measure that the learning activities are really making a difference. How do we make sure that the knowledge and skills gained in development activities is fully applied by employees on the job?

I have the pleasure of currently working with a forward-thinking organisation that has risen to that challenge.

Quick Release (QR_) are product data management (PDM) and product lifecycle management (PLM) specialists in the automotive sector.  They are a fast-growing organisation, with plans to double their European, North American and Australian workforces over the next three years.  This alone means there are a lot of career development opportunities for new and existing employees in terms of increased responsibility and faster advancement. But more than that, QR_ is dedicated to ensuring that people have the capabilities and behaviours in place to nail their current role and feel well prepared for the next. Fortunately, they have many of the key components already in place – a senior management team who actively champion learning, line managers who encourage their teams in their growth and a strong network of colleagues who support each other and quickly respond to any questions or issues.

QR_ are now moving forward to take the next step, ensuring that the learning offering is consistent, comprehensive and sustainable.

There are significant benefits in providing career development opportunities for employees. The Work Institute  conducts employee interviews in multiple industries, categorises reasons why employees choose to stay or quit, recommends remedial actions, and helps organisations improve. The 2019 Retention Report: Trends, Reasons and A Call to Action utilises data from over 250,000 employees, including more than 37,000 employees who quit their job in 2018. For the last six years, lack of career development has, by far, been the top reason people voluntarily leave and organisation.

More evidence of the importance of learning in the workplace is provided by the Association for Talent Development. Professional development will always be critical to business and career success. Today, it’s playing a leading role in helping companies and individuals differentiate themselves from their competition and peers. One growing trend among professionals is a greater emphasis on working for a company that will develop and act on a clear career path for them. For example, a report from Robert Half and Enactus found that the top priority for Generation Z and Millennials when looking for a job is opportunities for career growth.


Creating a Framework

The aim for QR_ is to build in continuous learning practices and to improve the targeted capabilities and behaviours that will have a positive impact on the job.

Imagine a work environment where individuals know exactly what skills they need in order to reach their potential in every stage of their career. They have easy access to targeted learning activities, designed by subject matter experts in every area, which cover not only courses, but social, on-the-job and carefully curated resources. They then work together with line managers to develop their own personal development plan, directed towards the most crucial business and personal needs. The line manager/individual partnership is key to monitoring progress and sustainable development. The individual development plan is not something that is created and put away to be forgotten or brought out at annual reviews.  It is a live document, reviewed at fortnightly one-to-ones between the individual and their manager to assess progress, determine any enhancements or tweaks to the development activities and to evaluate the success of applying the learning to the job.  It doesn’t stop there. The line manager is also key in providing guidance, feedback and support. It starts with a vision. But then a practical and implementable framework needs to be designed and put into place, tying together subject matter expertise, peer support access to resources, line manager support and individuals who own and plan their development. This is the learning environment QR_ is creating.

There is no silver bullet to close the gap between gaining knowledge and successfully applying it. It takes a lot of thought, senior sponsorship, planning and expertise.   However, by taking the time to understand the key learning levers in an organisation and creating the right frameworks, processes, engagement, activities and evaluation a company is not only promoting learning but ensuing performance improvement.