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12 ways to create a continuous learning culture

Employees might leave if they feel they aren't growing in their roles. Learn how to create a continuous learning culture and see how it can boost retention and grow your business.

Creating a culture of continuous learning just might be the secret weapon for retaining employees.

Hiring, onboarding and training new employees is expensive. However, when companies offer their workers a culture of continuous learning, it can improve employee engagement and help employees feel more driven and motivated in their roles, which can lead to higher retention rates.

It's not only employees who benefit from a continuous learning culture. The organization gains employees who are ready to take on new jobs and tasks. Continuous learning can also reduce the costs associated with turnover and lead to innovations that have a positive impact on the business.

A continuous learning culture is a set of practices that offer employees ongoing opportunities for cultivating knowledge, improving performance and adding competencies through the use of training and feedback.

Here are 12 continuous learning strategies HR leaders can implement in their organization.

1. Use performance management to find training opportunities

While relying on annual reviews for performance management doesn't evoke learning, continuous performance management is different. Managers and HR teams can take the continuous performance management approach to help uncover opportunities for growth closer to when they're needed.

Continuous performance management lends itself to coaching as managers conduct more frequent meetings with their reports. These meetings -- whether one-on-one or in small groups -- can be a great place to sharpen skills in an open, interactive space. They also give managers a chance to touch base and ask their employees how they can help them improve in their role. Managers can use this feedback to adjust their training methods and give employees a greater sense of independence and control over their job.

2. Offer employees new opportunities

Managers and HR leaders can turn to upskilling and reskilling to keep their employees on a steady upward track. In simple terms, upskilling is the process of providing employees with opportunities to learn new skills so that they can do their job more efficiently; reskilling is the process of teaching employees new skills so that they can perform a different job.

Whether employees have a new task they need to master or are given an opportunity to grow into a new role, they'll need more than quick, simple instructions. Instead, companies should provide them with the training and software required to handle the new responsibilities.

Introducing these new skills can benefit both workers and the organization. Upskilling and reskilling also cost less than hiring a new candidate for the job.

3. Use online platforms

Social media tends to be associated with frivolous pursuits -- for example, gaining followers and gathering likes -- not with educational opportunities. However, HR managers can use social media and closely associated learning services to foster a continuous learning culture.

The internet offers many ways to develop skills, and managers can share the best options with their teams. They can also encourage their employees to share ideas with each other. Employees can find informative videos on YouTube, as well as scan trending hashtags on X, formerly known as Twitter, to keep updated on any industry trends, developments and opportunities.

4. Consider the needs of experienced workers

A good strategy for creating a continuous learning culture includes the needs of higher-level employees.

HR can set aside a budget specifically for training to encourage them to take courses and continuously build their skill sets. Refresher courses, management classes and one-on-one trainings can help them feel up to date in their roles.

Offering this opportunity for growth to both new and experienced employees gives organizations a chance to build employee trust and improve retention rates.

5. Implement learning management platforms

Numerous learning management platforms are available to support employee growth, including the traditional learning management system and the newer learning experience platform.

These systems can be used to offer e-learning courses to employees on a variety of topics. The big advantage is that employees can take courses when it's convenient for them, and the platforms track course completion so that management can see who has the continuous improvement mindset.

6. Line up executive support

There is nothing better to help develop and reinforce the importance of a continuous learning culture than support from the executive team, especially the CEO.

Having them share information with employees about the training they've taken and key concepts they've learned, as well as making sure money is set aside for learning, makes employees and managers take notice.

Combined with assistance from HR, the learning and development (L&D) team, and other leaders, supportive executives can reinforce the idea that the organization provides an environment that supports continuous professional development.

7. Encourage peer-to-peer learning

Encouraging and making it easy for employees to share new information they've learned with their peers can help foster a culture of continuous learning.

For example, if an employee goes to a conference, have them share the highlights with other employees at the next team meeting.

Also, some learning platforms provide tools for employees to share learning content with others in the organization, such as an article, video or preferred website. Employees might also be able to use the learning platform to exchange ideas on a course they are taking or a topic of shared interest.

8. Hold regular learning opportunities for all employees

These sessions will include employees with a variety of backgrounds, so it's important to focus on broad topics that will be relevant to most attendees. For example, the company might offer sessions that provide information about the products and services it sells.

Similarly broad topics, such as communication, performance management and an introduction to finance, are likely to have broad appeal and practical benefit for employees.

9. Share success stories

Organizations often have employees who are committed to lifelong learning as they continue along their personal development journeys. Sharing their success gives other employees something to strive for. The stories might include the number of courses these top employees have completed, how they were able to apply something they learned to improve a product or service, or a change that had a positive impact and led to higher productivity.

The training recounted in these success stories could also have played a role in promotions and succession planning, which might entice employees to take continuous learning more seriously -- especially when it's reinforced with real examples of employees who have been promoted.

10. Add gamification

Gamification turns a regular task into a game to encourage friendly competition. It often includes a leaderboard that gives employees insight into who is taking advantage of training opportunities and sharing their own learning.

Points are awarded for different activities the company wants to reinforce. For example, completing a one-hour course might earn an employee 10 points and a two-hour course 20 points. Employees might also receive points for other activities, such as leading a course for their peers, or sharing content and collaborating with others on the learning platform.

Ideally, the points translate into more tangible rewards for employees. Perhaps each point has a monetary value that can be redeemed for certain products.

11. Include mentorship

The L&D team should consider adding a mentorship program to the organization's learning opportunities. It can be an informal program, where the mentor and mentee are introduced, but there is little oversight or expectation, which allows both parties to set their own expectations for the learning process.

Alternatively, a mentorship program can be formal and structured. In this case, there might be an application process for both the mentee and mentor, expectations related to the number of times they meet per year, note taking during meetings and so on. This level of formality might be the preferred method if the mentees are part of a succession plan and it's important to measure each mentee's readiness in terms of knowledge and skills.

While each mentorship program has its benefits, the formal approach will require additional time and resources to implement and monitor once it's launched.

12. Be prepared to measure

Measuring the success of a program typically sends a strong message that it's important and, in the case of continuous learning, reinforces the growth mindset. Leaders don't want to be singled out for not meeting expectations for fostering employee development.

The executive team might ask for regular updates to determine how the program is progressing. For example, there might be separate metrics on the number of employees taking internal courses versus pursuing external courses from colleges and universities, and how teams are using their training budget.

The results can be shared with employees when other information is being provided, such as when quarterly financial results are announced.

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