Team WorkingWhen you hear the word “educational” what comes to your mind? A boring lecture? A strict schoolmarm who is a little too eager to humiliate you publicly for not knowing the answer? A killer test you studied like crazy for, but still, bombed? 

I sincerely hope that is not how you feel about education but truth is, lots of people are not terribly fond of their memories of being educated. 

Does the word “learning” fare any better? Although they are essentially synonymous, learning seems less intimidating than educational, so keep that in mind if you want to give your employees some educational opportunities for professional development.

A well-trained team is a productive team, there is no doubt about it. Recent research by Gallup shows that cohesive teamwork will not only improve the workplace atmosphere, but it can even nudge the company's bottom line significantly upward.  

Most companies hope employees come in already trained and ready to work well in teams, but they often don’t. So how do you overcome this sad fact of life and improve your company’s culture and productivity? 

 

Building a Learning Culture

Learning can truly be fun.  Plenty of people love to learn. They are probably the lucky ones who had positive learning experiences early in life. Their kindergarten teacher didn’t spank them for being messy with the finger paint! 

Adults learn differently from children of course, but fun is still part of any successful educational campaign. Here are six ways you can make learning at work more fun, and therefore more effective and engaging.

 

  1. Add an element of competition to the learning process.  For example, hold a contest and vote to see who can come up with the best name for a new product.  
     
  2. Attach incentives to reward learning success. The rewards don’t have to be fancy or expensive, sometimes a cute but silly (i.e. cheap) trinket will do.
     
  3. Serve food at learning events. Food always makes people happy! 
     
  4. Plan more learning activities and fewer lectures.  Lectures are not only more boring than activities, but they have also been shown to be one of the least effective learning methods.  
     
  5. Make sure all learning and professional development is truly relevant. No amount of snacks or games will make busy adults like spending time on irrelevant and meaningless information. 
     
  6. Ask for employee feedback on your company training process and take the answers seriously. Incorporate these suggestions and make sure the team knows they are being listened to. 

 

Quality Teamwork is the Foundation

Building a learning culture at work is highly related to team building in general. There has to be trust.  There has to be goodwill. There has to be clear, consistent goals and fairly distributed resources.

People who trust each other and feel a sense of belonging will outperform those who distrust and feel like outcasts. In the workplace, everybody needs to feel respected and safe. 

 

Be Consistent and Transparent

If a learning culture is your goal, consistency is your friend.  Be consistent in holding your training and learning activities.  Be consistent with making expectations and goals known.  Be consistent with every single aspect of your program. This kind of regularity will be what implants learning firmly into the company culture. 

If instead, you take a scattered approach with no regularity, people won’t take your efforts to lead company training seriously. 

Transparency is also important. Lots of people are highly suspicious by nature and if management is not transparent, conspiracy theories are going to come up, get gossiped about, and spread poison on your efforts. 

So make sure to freely and openly discuss company goals, plans, and intentions. Make all information relevant for the individuals involved. People who work in sales aren’t going to be happy spending their professional development time learning how to write a newsletter if it is something they will never have to do. 

 

Be Honest About Quality

Make sure any training you provide is relevant, timely and high-quality. Please don’t fall into the trap of patting yourself on the back if everybody going through the training says it’s lousy. 

Listen to the feedback you get. You’ll never get 100% satisfaction, but if virtually everyone tells you the lecture was boring, don’t cling to the opinion of the one person who loved it. 

 

Make Training Accessible

Once you find a training program you like, make sure people know how to access it.  For example, let’s say you want all employees to beef up their skills on the computer programs your company uses, so you want them to learn SAP.

Find a quality SAP training program that suits your company’s needs. Then put together a brief outline of the SAP courses available, and list which job titles would benefit the most from the information. 

Don’t forget to include incentive rewards. For example, for the employees who go above and beyond and go all the way and get an SAP certification, recognize this as an achievement and reward them with a bonus or other gift. Even something as simple and inexpensive as a certificate will generate goodwill. 

A culture of learning is a valuable asset for any company. The world moves way too fast these days for anyone to stand still.  We all need to continue learning. Those who enjoy the process are more likely to be successful.


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Lorraine Grula is a curious and compassionate Okie native who grew up on politics and science. She loves to read, write and study the world.
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