Every organization has a culture. We know that culture is like the wind. We cannot see it but can feel it everywhere. If this wind blows favorably, our lives become easy and when it doesn’t, then life becomes harder. Each organization has its own culture – values, vision, mission, management style, and a certain accepted code of conduct. Most times, it will also have a place for learning and talent development. If you desire to make a change in your organization’s culture and move it more toward being a learning one, you must realize it is a mammoth task, especially if you are not in a position of power and influence. But then, history has shown that ‘lowly’, ‘ordinary’, and ‘unknown’ individuals have changed the course of history – Gandhi, Mandela, King to name a few. You need to become something of a learning evangelist like them.
To the L&D professional, irrespective of position, these are some of the steps that can work for you.
You must first believe in learning yourself. You must deeply and ardently believe that learning at an individual level is the most powerful way to survive and thrive, both in the short term and long term. I am sure there are other factors that contribute to success like motivation, people sense, commercial sense, energy and so on. But all these factors have their roots in learning. Examine yourself if you really believe it. If you don’t, you will not even move an inch.
Make an inventory of your learning. Are you a passionate learner? Are you always learning something new? Does your office and home reflect and support your learning? Do you have a plan for the next 2, 5, 10 years of what you want to learn? If you don’t have one, make one. Develop a habit to always have a development plan for yourself.
You must become a practicing learner. You must put your plan into action. It should start showing results in your own personal and professional life. Your learning should show you as a role model to others around you.
Identify like-minded people who can champion the cause along with you. Start and nurture communities of practice. Discuss and share success and not-so-successful stories. Share resources.
When you are at this stage, it is time for you to ‘preach’ the gospel. Preaching not in a conventional sense but more by facilitating learning in your team and employees. Master the craft of teaching and training, of counseling, coaching, and mentoring and of inspiring and motivating. Become the person to whom people come for their learning and growth.
Make it into a movement by living in the trenches with your people. Understand the business, strategies, products, competition, priorities, challenges, and how training and learning can help them. Speak their language.
You will face a lot of resistance and naysayers, but you must stick on. When your individual vision and efforts start making ripples in the organization, the powers-to-be will take notice and you will be invited to the table of decision-making. You must prepare every day for this event. This is when you know that your organization’s culture will change toward a learning one.