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A culture of learning is the greatest gift leaders can give

  • Written by Mike Featherstone, Managing Director, APAC/ANZ, Pluralsight

With Australian companies coming in second to last on the Digital Maturity Index, innovation and the rapid pace of change in technology poses a variety of challenges for technology leaders and their teams.

Some are eager to identify and utilise relevant tools and platforms to stay ahead of the competition while others are more focused on investing in their teams though upskilling and reskilling initiatives. With the number of tech graduates failing to meet demand and Australia needing 200,000 tech workers by 2024, one could argue that the latter is more important.

More than just an employee benefit, investing in employees through upskilling and reskilling programs is now a business imperative. Businesses must keep their team members equipped with the latest skills, aligned to business needs, in order to meet demand and stay ahead of the competition.

Like any organisational value, a culture of learning cannot scale across the business overnight. Integrating learning into the natural flow of work for employees can be a significant challenge for leaders and requires them to rethink their approach. No matter the methodology, creating a culture of learning is by far the greatest gift business leaders can give to their employees. And with Australia’s looming tech skills shortage, businesses have their work cut out for them.

How can leaders ensure they get started on the right foot when it comes to creating a culture of learning?

Commit to employee empowerment

The road to creating a culture of learning starts with empowering your employees. In fact, according to Deloitte, empowerment is one of the greatest driving forces for employee retention and satisfaction. Employees who know that their company is committed to investing in their learning and development feel empowered.

Simply appearing to have invested interest in the development of your employees isn’t enough. More often than not, traditional—and frankly outdated—L&D models miss the mark in achieving training goals for employees in their respective roles due to their one-size-fits-all approach. With traditional training, organisations are at risk of perpetuating their skills gap, and subsequently being left unable to embrace new technologies and effectively support customers. Employees need real, tangible solutions to their upskilling  needs.

Leaders need to demonstrate their commitment by investing in learning resources that are readily accessible by employees at any time. This gives employees the freedom to learn new skills when it suits their lifestyles and makes them feel empowered to engage with the content.

Embed learning at the core of the organisation

Like other organisational imperatives, such as security, leaders must ensure that learning is built into the fabric of the culture. Leaders can do this by reframing the mindset of their employees from one of natural curiosity to an incentive to pursue mastery of a certain skill set.

Gamification is one methodology that has the ability to inject fun into an otherwise mundane task, which can boost participation, competitive spirit and motivate entire teams to learn. Another thing to consider is that most people rely on content platforms like to fulfil their content consumption needs and are often used to having everything stored conveniently in one place.

Whether gamification and content platforms are the answers or not, leaders will need to find a way to incorporate a desire to learn into the organisation’s culture to keep employees engaged.

Tailor learning to real employee needs

Traditional training systems require learning a variety of subjects, even some that aren’t relevant to prospective career goals. Regardless of interest in the various subjects, this blanket approach to learning was fundamental at a primary and secondary education level. However, at a professional level, blanket training programs are inefficient. Not only can they take up a lot of employees’ time, they also take up a lot of headspace that could be used to focus on honing skills relevant to them and the business. With traditional training, organisations are at risk of perpetuating their skills gap, and eventually being left unable to embrace new technologies.

Employees need access to tailored learning content that meet a specific need or gap in their skill set and should feel empowered to learn these new skills. Ongoing tailored training in the technology sector is the silver bullet to addressing actual employee needs. If companies are truly committed to upskilling their employees in hopes of closing their technology skills gap, they must invest in an agile technology skills development plan. Meanwhile, sponsoring select employees to get a project management diploma online may be quite an investment, but it definitely goes a long way for the company.

Forward-thinking leaders who prioritise the development of their employees by offering on-demand learning tailored to each employee, will ensure their employees feel empowered and will keep them working towards business goals.  

Cultivating a culture of learning and empowering from within an organisation is the key to supporting a thriving workplace for all employees.

Mike Featherstone, Managing Director, APAC/ANZ, Pluralsight