Building an inclusive learning culture at work
A 2019 report by CIPD found that 98% of learning and development (L&D) practitioners wish to develop a positive culture for learning, but only 36% feel like they’ve developed one.
What are we not doing right?
Balancing meaningful training opportunities with business as usual operations is not the simplest task. For employees, it’s easy to get lost in the day to day requirements of our jobs that we fail to invest time in our longer term development. Organisations need to take a proactive approach and work with employees to build internal skills and training or risk losing talent who feel limited and can’t see a way to progress.
Learning should be embedded into the foundation of every company, no matter its size.
Not all learning and development needs to be through formal channels and a checklist of qualifications. Employees can share insights with each other, and senior management can encourage internal collaboration to build on individual learning and development plans. Better yet, you can encourage teams and individuals to reflect on and learn from mistakes and successes, which can both offer valuable lessons.
And most importantly, equal opportunities should be at the heart of any learning culture.
So how do you create a culture of learning?
Let’s start at the beginning before going into some tips your organisation can use to drive continuous personal development (CPD).
What is a learning culture?
The culture of your company is about the workplace environment and core principles you want to represent. A learning culture is, therefore, an environment in which learning and personal development thrive every day.
You want employees to feel challenged without being out of their depth. And you’re there to offer ongoing professional opportunities for employees to extend and accrue skills for life, learning and work.
And this means all employees.
Every person has a different set of skills and brings a unique perspective to your company. And so your approach to personal development needs to take an individualised approach.
Learning and development teams must always take steps to provide an inclusive learning culture, with policies and procedures in place that reflect the diversity and different needs of employees seeking avenues of progression.
In the UK, there are organisations like the Learning and Work Institute, which focuses on transforming people’s experiences of learning and employment. Working with organisations to promote lifelong learning, essential and life skills, job security and social justice.
However, understanding broader trends within the labour market, upskilling employees and tackling social injustice should be a priority for all organisations looking to capitalise on the true potential of their workforce and reach underrepresented talent that has a lot to offer.
Trust us, your organisation will thrive when your employees thrive.
A culture of learning will help to boost innovation and creativity across your company, influencing wider strategy and decision making. And ensuring employees are engaged and take the time to reflect as they go about their daily tasks and to-do lists.
How can L&D professionals embed learning in their workplace?
We can’t be indifferent to the competitive advantage that comprehensive learning and development policies offer. Learning and development teams are there to enable employees to achieve their potential, and when it comes to learning, we all have our own strengths and experience different challenges.
Equipping staff with the means to learn in a way that suits them best is half the task, and the more support you can provide to this end, the better.
These three steps can help you build a more sustainable culture of learning in your organisation.
#1 Build the vision at an organisational level
Hopefully, you’re already working with senior management to outline and effectively communicate the company’s vision for learning and continual development that empowers employees and reflects the organisation’s own objectives.
However, sometimes a shift in focus can mean things unintentionally fall behind or external circumstances impact the effectiveness of current policy and learning practices. Creating a culture of learning can act as a framework to continually evaluate and adapt your workplace learning environment.
And within that framework, you can use evidence-based strategies to implement and support effective learning.
“By having an ‘awareness of the science of learning theory, organisations … can add to their learning culture’ as they integrate evidence-based theories around adult learning into practice. This in turn, helps develop the most appropriate and effective learning solutions and strategy.” (CIPD, 2017)
Your vision of a learning culture has to take into account how we actually learn and the science behind our abilities to process information.
Cognitive science helps us to understand the different ways that people think and learn. Our learning and cognition are intrinsically linked, so cognitive insights can be vital to understanding how people learn best and supporting L&D.
Cognassist offers a digital cognitive assessment and learning tools to help employees and L&D teams understand the different ways we learn and support individual learning in the workplace.
Backed by decades of scientific research and an independent scientific advisory board, we have developed an evidence-based platform to support cognitive diversity and learning in the workplace. Just as we’ve been doing in education for the past 6 years.
With our team of data and research scientists, consulting with external neuropsychologists, we can offer insights into how you and your employees think and learn, how much diverse thinking your organisation has and also offer training on how to support neurodiversity at work. Meaning you have an inclusive and data-driven tool to drive an innovative culture of learning and development that sits alongside HR and DE&I teams for greater collaboration.
#2 Create support channels for employees at a team level
Managers play a key role in day to day delivery of your L&D strategy and ensuring staff get the support they need to prioritise and discuss their personal development.
Offering line managers the necessary help to guide learning and development within their team is vital. So there need to be structures in place that give managers an understanding of their team, how they learn and ways of working that would support their best performance.
What if employees could easily share tips and insights into how they work best with each other? By taking a digital cognitive assessment to unlock our understanding of fundamental cognitive processes, your teams can make changes and accommodations to work more effectively and rely on the individual strengths of each other to create better collaboration.
It is another way for employees to connect and learn more about each other.
One great benefit of using cognitive assessments is that they are often part of the diagnostic process for neurodiverse conditions. So, while Cognassist does not provide a diagnosis, we can open up conversations around neurodiversity in your organisation.
Our work in education has shown that our assessment results can have an incredibly positive impact for people who already have a diagnosis and for people who start their diagnosis journey after our assessment.
Not everyone requires a diagnosis, of course. Many people in the neurodiverse community self-identify. And our platform can help support differences without the need for diagnosis.
Everyone learns at their own pace and in their own way.
It is important to note here that your organisation’s responsibility to support learning and development can and should also include the application of reasonable adjustments where necessary. These support channels are a legal requirement and part of your commitment to your employees.
Cognassist provides training and recommendations around reasonable adjustments for your organisation and employees. And we offer neurodiversity training for managers to help them better support individuals.
However, managers will be on their own learning and development journey too, and they will not always have the answers for employees. So, it’s important that every employee has multiple ways to access and develop their own learning, which don’t create a bottleneck through their managers.
Hopefully, you already have a wealth of talent within your organisation and ways for employees across the business to connect with one another. People should have a space to raise questions, talk about personal development, tackle inclusivity and share expertise. Whether this is through digital channels and groups (like a company intranet or messaging platform), monthly meet ups or lunch and learn sessions.
If people are not engaging with these options, then it’s likely you need to go back to step 1 and look at how effectively you are encouraging employees to think about and discuss insights internally.
Neurodiversity, alongside other aspects of equality, diversity and inclusion, should always be an ongoing conversation to ensure employees receive the best support.
#3 Empower employees with the right information at an individual level
Many organisations are quick to play up the individual responsibility for learning and development, but a culture of learning means that employees have the right information to make informed decisions about their learning and development. And there are multiple ways that organisations can give employees the information they need and encourage self-led learning.
Giving every employee an understanding about their cognitive profile, looking at how they learn best, enables them to seek out more relevant and powerful training opportunities. They can adopt strategies and techniques that facilitate their learning every day.
They can also, with your help, build in flexibilities around formalised learning and take more time to reflect and build on informal learning. While also providing more insight and support into how they can better apply their learning within their day to day role.
Offering different types of learning throughout your employment journey will help every employee build a pathway to success. At Cognassist, a mixture of online, bitesize learning can be combined with discussions and training courses to create a more dynamic and engaging experience for employees.
During onboarding, employees, managers and key teams in your organisation will have access to their own training and content to support inclusive and data-driven learning and development.
Remember to always highlight the value of continuous learning for all employees and communicate what learning opportunities are available across your organisation.
Employees should feel supported to learn in your organisation, with acceptance and understanding of learning differences that could impact an employee’s on-the-job learning.
Here’s to no employee left behind.
Take our free Neurodiversity in the Workplace Masterclass
Understand more about the different ways we think and learn and what strategies your organisation can do to implement a diversity-led employment experience.
Science Communications Manager