Talent Management

5 ways to build a best-in-class culture for learning and development

learning and development

It’s no coincidence that the world’s best leaders are lifelong learners. Like most great coaches, they believe that everyone can always get better and consistently pursue learning and development for themselves and their teams.

When done right, learning and development can change how a company does business — creating performance systems around everything from cost management to communication. Of course, leaders need employees to have the latest skills, but even more so they need their team to develop a mindset that is open to new thinking and ideas. This helps to move beyond the status quo to create leaner, more nimble companies.

This culture of learning starts at the top. Great leaders ensure they are creating and maintaining a culture of learning by taking the following steps:

1. Balance learning with doing

Successful leaders focus on instilling transferable skills that help employees excel in their current roles and can propel their careers. I have found value in the Performance Triangle, a three-pronged approach to learning and development that focuses on skills, activity and results. This model ensures employees can take action on the skills they are learning.

For example, training on innovation can only be effective if the company also has built-in systems that allow innovation to be brought to life. The Performance Triangle also reminds leaders not to spend all of their time on theory; an equal amount of learning can come from experience in the field.

Focusing on employee development in this balanced way helps foster clear paths for internal promotions, creating depth within the organization and increasing retention.

2. Make time for learning and development

While taking time away from daily work to focus on improving can be challenging, best-in-class leaders see learning and development as non-negotiable, for themselves and their employees. Instead of isolating learning and development as a standalone department or a once-annual “check the box” exercise, they dedicate learning and development time and resources to their overarching plans.

One simple way to drive learning throughout a company is to ensure employees are exposed to other leaders in the organization through cross-collaborative activities, which can open the door for organic mentorship opportunities.

3. Align with strategy

Bringing a talented, motivated team of high-performing individuals together is essential, but effective leaders also give the team the toolset to collaborate and have difficult, honest conversations to drive real progress. The most effective learning and development programs are tied to driving the company’s strategies, goals, vision, purpose and values. This helps the team to have the same language around what success looks like, which can uncover potential barriers that prevent employees from being more effective.

Teams that start with this foundation are more resilient during inevitable times of intense change or challenges. General competencies — such as problem-solving, communication, leadership, financial literacy and collaboration — help all employees throughout their career. The most impactful learning and development sessions also leave employees with clear and actionable ways to apply learning to the business in real time.

4. Leverage your peer network

One of the best ways leaders learn is by leaning into the diverse, unbiased perspectives within their peer network. Vistage CEO peer groups provide an effective approach to problem-solving as a platform for learning from the experiences of others. CEOs gain the confidence to make better decisions from the insights of trusted peers who have tackled similar challenges.

5. Believe in the team

When a business isn’t achieving expected results, it can be tempting to seek out quick fixes or flavor-of-the-month approaches. While some leaders’ first instinct in response to challenges is to replace key staff members, a solid learning and development program relies on the intrinsic belief that, with the right tools, the team in place can find the answers.

When leaders have done the work to hire a dedicated team, investing in them through learning and development demonstrates the belief that they can uncover solutions. In all likelihood, the answer is right there; it just needs to be drawn out.

While there isn’t an easy one-size-fits-all solution for learning and development, there is a great reward for rejecting shortcuts and having the discipline to dedicate time and energy to creating a learning culture. As important as it is for CEOs to encourage employees to participate in learning and development, great leaders realize growth doesn’t stop upon becoming a CEO; leaders who become complacent risk falling behind competitors. The best leaders allow their love of learning to cascade throughout their organization.

This story first appeared in The Business Journals.

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Category : Talent Management

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About the Author: Sam Reese

Sam Reese is CEO of Vistage, the world’s largest CEO coaching and peer advisory organization for small and midsize businesses. Over his 35 year career as a business leader, Sam has led large and midsize organizatio

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