How To Develop An Organization-wide eLearning Culture

How To Develop An Organization-wide eLearning Culture
Summary: The issue of developing an elearning culture within an organization is not new. A lot has been discussed about the benefits of elearning culture - where employees take pain to gain more knowledge, stay competitive and become better over time.

Inculcating eLearning Culture - Some Tactics

Some organizations try to achieve this by providing training and learning infrastructure - eLearning Material, Training Class Rooms, Trainers, Learning Management Systems, engaging Content and even customized Learning games. Learning technology companies are also continually researching new ways of learning, innovative content, and so on. However, even the most innovative learning solutions sometimes find little enthusiasm in learners, followed by low completion rates.

So, where does the problem lie? Even with the best learning infrastructure, innovative learning design and engaging content, if there is a marked lack of enthusiasm then the problem might lie in the culture of your organization. Learning organizations, which effectively address the problem of "culture", reap the benefits of an organization-wide enthusiasm for perennial learning.

It is not impossible to inculcate a sustained interest in learning and enterprise-wide elearning culture. Highly successful organizations have been able to create this culture and others could stand to benefit from adopting successful initiatives that have shown results. A report by Bersin reiterates that we live in a world of change and organizations must prepare for continuous innovation.  Innovations should not be related to just new products or creativity, but can actually be something basic that results in tremendous business benefits. Inculcating an enterprise-wide elearning culture might just be such an innovation! The report highlights Google's learning culture, bringing up key elements as well as the many benefits of adopting such a culture. The report reaffirms that organizations have to be proactive in creating avenues for learning and take positive steps towards sustaining learning.

Here are some tactics that have worked for successful learning organizations:

The Organizational Culture Always Drips Down

The culture of learning has to be in the soul of the organization. This includes the members of the board, founders and the senior managers. An enterprise-wide elearning culture can be developed only if the initiative is from the top, rather than from the middle, like L&D Head and HR Head. The top-down approach to effectively generate interest in learning should come within the ‘necessary’ tasks for all – be it the top managers or the new sales executive.

The efforts do not have to be time consuming and with the aid of technology, time utilization can be achieved. But business leaders should lead by example – not only in generating a diligent focus on working, but also in creating an elearning culture as well.  Business heads can spend some time every week on learning something new – be it on the mobile, on the way to office; or, on a tablet between meetings.  They can share their experiences and encourage the managers to do so as well. Soon the entire organization will make learning a part of work life – something that they enjoy and not something that is done only because it’s mandatory!

Space For Learning

Work is the main focus for most employees and organizations like to keep it that way. But it is also true that high expectation of productivity, targets, and huge workload from employees often leave little space for them to sharpen their axe. If employees do not have official time for learning, they are very unlikely to initiate learning themselves. Organizations, especially managers must work out learning time within the schedule of their team. Since most corporate employees do well with a target in mind, managers can create learning targets for teams or individual learners. Attractive prizes can be announced for top learners to let the spirit of competition drive the learning initiative. The carrot-stick approach might sound like adopting a forced-learning strategy, but might work for organizations who are serious about promoting a elearning culture.

What's In It For The Learner?

Employees work with certain goals in mind - make money, retain the existing job and be employable in future. Thus they are always keen on making efforts that help them meet these goals. If organizations can link the learning to these goals, then they can successfully increase the learners’ interest in learning – owing to the actual benefits they can reap out of the learning process.

Organizations can weave learning into the learners’ deliverables or the Key Responsibility Areas (KRAs). Let the test scores at the end of an e-course or a new certificate attained reflect in the appraisal system to make sure that the efforts of the learner are recognized not only by the immediate superiors, but higher up as well. When the outcome of learning affects actual gains – like a raise or a promotion, then the interest in learning will be truly genuine and sincere.  Additionally, each certificate should be attached to some monetary incentives that the employees can enjoy as a prize for learning. Organizations spend considerable amount of money for building up the infrastructure. It makes sense to let some money trickle to the employees directly, increasing the impact of learning and making sure that the infrastructure is well utilized!

A Little Fear Factor

While organizations need to shoulder the responsibilities of learning initiatives, employees too need to share this responsibility equally. There will be reluctant learners, who will lag in spite of the evident benefits of learning. Changing their attitude might be difficult and it is then up to the managers who work closely with them, to counsel them on maintaining good learning habits.  Dwindling learning scores should raise flags and signal managers to talk to relevant employees on the benefits of attaining appropriate knowledge as per their job profile. There may be certain penalties as well for not completing the adequate learning targets, which will generate some ’fear factor’ to keep motivating the employees. The penalties may include suspended rights to something that truly engages all learners – like social platforms within the organization. If a learner fails to complete designated courses on the LMS, he may be not allowed to contribute to his favorite discussion board that week.  The chance to mingle with peers is highly coveted and the learner will be motivated to complete the required courses – as well as make sure that he maintains them throughout.

Peer Pressure for Knowledge

We all learn best in a social environment and corporate elearning should also provide the opportunity to learn with peers. Most learners value the admiration of their peers and put extra efforts for learning if that gets them the respect from their peers. In addition, the management must put in place strategies that create peer pressure on employees who do not work hard to keep themselves competitive and knowledgeable.

An effective way to create peer pressure is to reward the employees who demonstrate high degree of knowledge, which is appropriate to their job profile. The awards must be something that all learners aspire for -- a cut above the ordinary to actually get their attention.  All high performers should be rewarded publically – on the company LMS, their name mentioned in the company newsletter or even a congratulatory mail that goes to everyone in the company. The fact that a fellow employee is being rewarded so well for his efforts is a great push for even the most reluctant learner.

A strong and sound elearning culture can be the strongest indicator of how ‘modern’ the organization is -- for learning is certainly a part of the modern work culture. An elearning culture is not a one-off standalone course, which the learner needs to take on a yearly basis. It includes a wide variety of sustained programs, processes, and systems that inspire the employees to learn new things, build new skills, recover from mistakes, and innovate. Developing an elearning culture has long-term business benefits and an organizations’ enthusiasm for learning is the first step towards success.

So, has your organization taken the first step?