Nurturing a Learning Culture at Your Firm.

A learning culture could be defined as a community where inquisitiveness, teamwork and adaption to change is expected and rewarded. To create this type of innovation-centered environment, encourage all types of learning as the rule, not an exception.

There is no question that formal training is crucial for novice learners. It creates a framework of industry standards and best practices for an employee taking on new tasks or who needs a refresher. Confidence in formal training is evident, as most firms have a formal development program. But does your firm encourage on-the-job learning to support those employees as they increase their proficiency?

Years ago, formal training was enough. Employees mastered necessary tasks and stayed in the same positions for many years. That’s just not true anymore. Now, continuous improvement, innovation and leadership are expected at all levels within most organizations. Informal learning is an effective way to supplement formal training to help employees reach higher, because it challenges them to put learned concepts into practice.

To begin creating learning culture, evaluate how your firm supports inform learning in these ways:

Peer Mentoring

Are all newly hired employees paired up with mentors? Each mentor will need a structure to work within. So, consider assigning each expert mentor to review a specific business process in which they are most adept. Then, allow the new employee enough time to job shadow, ask questions, practice while being supported and receive feedback from those mentors. Because they are in similar situations, peers can empathize and offer support that’s not likely to come from a manager.

Social Learning

Chances are your employees are engaging in social media. Consider putting learning into an interface they love by creating a blog with tips and tricks from high performers accessible from your Intranet site or using a tool like Google Blogger.

Does your firm have a way for employees to get questions answered by their peers quickly and easily? Try creating a free or low-cost internal social network using a tool like Yammer. Use that type of social network platform to share information from all employees across departments, offices or even countries.

Most of us have used Wikipedia at one time or another. Why not create your own internal wiki where employees can create a collaborative knowledge database. This will help the entire firm become better prepared for employee turnover.

Self-Directed Learning

Multi-tasking is a must, and allowing learning to happen on demand can support that reality. Look for formal training options that allow for spontaneous learning at any time at any place. Examples can be found for your LexisNexis products on LexisNexis University. Your employees crave that type of flexibility, so make sure to continue the theme by making internal job aids and training easily accessible at the moment of need as well.

Blending Informal and Formal Programs

Even if you institute these suggestions, you may still not achieve success if you aren’t blending formal and informal. Informal learning is often spontaneous, on demand and personal, but your overall learning culture needs a solid infrastructure. Make sure your development plans include a combination of formal education to provide foundation information for new tasks and informal learning to put those concepts into the context as they become experts.

Foster a learning culture to reduce the time to performance, because employees learn to avoid traps in which their more experienced counterparts have fallen. Additional benefits include more innovation and collaboration, because your employees will work together to improve common processes. In addition, self-directed development will create better employee engagement and confidence. As they continually learn, you will watch your pool of potential leaders grow as well!