excellence and innovation. To get your executives excited,
prove how learning can improve the business and its
TR Y THIS: Endeavor to get inside the CEO’s head while
you’re making your arguments—and ask lots of questions to clarify his or her vision for the company, suggests James Balagot, head of learning and development at San Francisco-based Yelp, which publishes
crowdsourced reviews of businesses. “I’d ask, ‘ What
kind of brand do you want? What kind of people do you
want to hire?’ When you have a learning culture, you
attract a higher-quality candidate, one who’s more
aligned with the company vision.”
Engage Middle Managers
While learning cultures start at the top, they won’t get
much on-the-ground traction if you don’t get middle managers on board. Managers must understand how important learning is to the company’s long-term future—that it
keeps workers’ skills up to date, if not ahead of the curve,
and prepares employees for growth opportunities, which
Like executives, managers should actively participate
in creating a learning culture, helping workers learn what
they need to know and following up after a learning exercise is complete. “Managers need to understand that if
employees take time to develop skills, it will help make
them stronger contributors and team members,” says Paul
Wolfe, senior vice president and head of human resources
for Indeed.com in New York City.
Of course, managers will want proof before they start
pulling their employees away from “real work” to spend
time learning. But if you study your company’s operations
closely enough, you’re bound to come up with examples
of the advantages of learning that managers can readily
This goes back to the idea of instilling a sense of safety
to experiment. Managers want to see their employees
exhibit certain behaviors—whether that means following safety checklists or always challenging the status
quo—as much as HR and executives do. “If HR convinces managers to spend five minutes on [reinforcing
desired learning] at stand-up meetings each week, they’ll
do it because they’ll see the results,” Geldart says. This is
a critical step. “You can’t be relevant without line managers,” he says.
Workers look to their leaders for support and encouragement, so “if you want relevance, you need managers
to buy in and know how to help their employees after
training” is done.
TRY THIS: Employees at TED, the media organization
that posts educational and inspirational talks online,
have “Learning Wednesdays” every other week.
These are meeting-free days when workers can do
whatever they want—as long as they use the time to
Communicate Your Goals
Because culture is an organizationwide issue, you must
ensure that each worker recognizes the value learning
offers to him or her as an individual as well as to the business as a whole.
It’s not enough to announce your program in an
e-newsletter or social media post and then rely on
employees to “get it”; HR departments must actively
market their educational offerings, share their philosophy around learning, and encourage managers to talk up
training and development opportunities. “The culture
of learning is communicated as part of the hiring process and should be in the employees’ values,” Ho says.
“HR should integrate it into the hiring and onboarding
TRY THIS: Make employee relevance part of HR’s internal brand. That’s what the folks at job board Indeed.com
did. “Our new tagline for Indeed’s HR team is ‘ We care
about what you care about,’ ” Wolfe says.
Integrate Learning Platforms
When reviewing learning technology platforms, a number of products are available. You can buy off-the-shelf
programs and then run them as is or customize them, or
you can invest in tailored, industrial-strength solutions.
As you proceed—whether through a formal request-for-proposal process or your own exploration—be sure
you know which problems you’re trying to solve, both
technically and educationally. For instance, will a new
technology integrate into your existing systems? Does it
fit with the way your employees want to learn? “
Having a vision upfront helps ease the due diligence process,”
Rolling out programs at the right pace is essential, and
you want to test their effectiveness as you go along. It
should be an iterative process, where you release a solution, test it, gather feedback and “iterate to make sure it’s
right for your audience,” Wolfe suggests.