How to Create Effective Learning Within Your Organisation

Providing effective learning within an organisation is a necessity, both for employees to help them reach their potential and for the organisation to grow as a whole.

To ensure effective learning is taking place, organisations should consider reviewing what is on offer for each employee and the different methods of learning available. You will not want to waste time and resources trying to teach employees in ways that are not going to be the most beneficial. Creating effective learning enables the right learning techniques to be applied to the right employees to make learning as efficient as possible.

How to Determine Effective Learning Techniques

One of the best-known learning techniques is from Kolb’s Learning Cycle (1984).

Effective Learning

The Learning Cycle claims that effective learning happens when the individual being trained has experienced the training either in a hands-on capacity or within a training course. They then have interpreted this for themselves and gone onto digest it and understand what they have been taught. The last step is implementing their new knowledge.

To understand this cycle more clearly an example is when a child learns that a fire is hot. They learn by putting their hand near to a fire and it will hurt them and therefore they will not do this again. Thereby effectively completing the Learning Cycle.

Learning Styles

Understanding that different individuals have different preferences is key to Honey and Mumford’s (1982) Learning Styles theory. They developed the idea that as individuals, we prefer one of the four stages of Kolb’s Learning Cycle more than the others. This is to say that we are more receptive to training in our preferred element.

Theorist

These individuals like the theory behind things. They need to draw upon concepts and facts to fully engage with learning. They prefer to be challenged intellectually by information and create their own theory or conclusions.

Methods of Learning

  • Models
  • Quotes
  • Facts
  • Statistics
  • Theories
  • Background Information

Reflector

These people like to learn by watching others. They prefer a back-seat role where they can see what others are doing. They like to be at the edge of activities to observe, this allows them to collect multiple pieces of data and draw their own conclusions from watching activities from different perspectives.

Methods of Learning

  • Self-analysis
  • Observation
  • Feedback
  • Coaching

Activist

These learners like to be thrown into the deep end. They love to be put straight into activities. They have an open-minded approach and are open to new experiences and different ways of working. They often find success in crisis situations.

Methods of Learning

  • Problem Solving
  • Puzzles
  • Role play
  • Group Activities

Pragmatist

Pragmatists need to see how things work in the real world. They find it hard to relate to activities that are not true to life. They constantly seek an opportunity to put what they are learning into practise to see if it holds up. They focus on outputs and implementation.

Methods of Learning

  • Problem Solving
  • Ability to test the training
  • Case Studies
  • Discussion

Using learning styles to facilitate effective learning

Effective learning is the result of identifying what learning style suits an individual and allowing them to learn in that way. There are many free online Learning Style Questionnaires. It would be beneficial before starting any training within the organisation to discover how your employees learn the most efficiently. The Learning Styles are a very good indicator for how well employees will respond to certain training methods. Despite this, just because they have a preference does not mean they are incapable of learning through other methods. When conducting training, the focus should always be on the training and trying to effectively deliver it to employees. Sometimes training cannot be delivered in a way that some employees will enjoy that is just a fact of life. But, for the most effective learning it is beneficial to try and alternate learning styles.

What is a Learning Culture and why is it important?

One of the best and most efficient ways an organisation of any size can get ahead of its competition is by creating a learning culture.

Working within an SME is all about trying to find that competitive edge. There is a need to continually innovate and be one step ahead of the ‘big boys’. A learning culture, if correctly implemented and carried out effectively, can result in your organisation moving to the next level.

What is a learning culture?

It is important to understand what a learning culture is before trying to implement one.  A learning culture can be achieved by embracing the ethos of learning as a continual process, where it is understood that learning opportunities happen at every stage of an employee’s journey within the organisation. A learning culture needs an agreed set of practices, processes or conventions. The aim of these conventions is to help the people within the organisation learn continuously. All barriers that could potential stop an individual from learning and developing are removed to help create an environment in which learning is at the core.

The differences between a learning culture and training and development

Some may suggest that a learning culture isn’t any different to that of an organisation that provides regular training. However, the subtle differences between a learning environment and that of an organisation that simply focuses on training can result in large changes to the whole organisation. A few examples of the differences are below:

Who leads the training or learning

Within a training environment a specific trainer will come into the organisation and train the employees in a specific area. However, within a learning environment the learning is lead by the individual employee. The employee should be able to understand the areas in which they need to improve or receive coaching and therefore they lead their learning.

How and when learning takes place

Within a training culture the emphasis is on specific workshops or courses which take place at scheduled times throughout the year. However, a learning culture views learning as a continuous effort, for example, through coaching, mentoring and social interaction.

The ‘carrot’ or the ‘stick’

In many organisations, training acts as the ‘stick’, occurring as a result of employees not meeting required outcomes through lack of skills or knowledge. Training in this context is seen similarly to punishment. Within a learning culture the learning is not a result of poor performance but a ‘carrot’ to encourage personal development through a continuous process.

Knowledge sharing

The training culture is often centred around isolation. Different departments are often kept away from one another. This results in some knowledge being warehoused by one department and depriving others of what could be valuable information. However, within a learning culture the emphasis is on collaborative learning. Ideas are shared, not just with other employees but across areas or departments to the benefit of the whole organisation.

What are the benefits of implementing a Learning Culture?

  1. Increased efficiency and productivity
  2. Increased employee engagement resulting in decreased employee turnover
  3. The organisation and its people are better able to react to change
  4. There is an increase in innovation
  5. Increased problem-solving ability within the organisation

How to create a learning environment

There are a few different tactics a manager can implement within their organisation to help it to develop a learning culture:

  • The first step is for the leader(s) of the organisation to commit to the ethos that learning is a continuous process and not one that can be set for a specific time. Therefore, they should treat learning as a resource to be used. This is the mindset needed before starting to create a learning environment.
  • The next step is to introduce the aspects of coaching and mentoring to senior management roles, setting out a plan to coach and mentor the employees that report to them. Some managers may need development themselves in these skills, which only highlights the importance of the learning environment from top to bottom.
  • The employee should then be encouraged to create their own personal development plan to ensure their learning and development needs are noted, understood and followed through. If an organisation is committed to developing a learning culture it must be mandatory for employees to create these plans.
  • It is imperative that once a new skill has been learnt that the organisation recognises and celebrates the achievement, for example, when an employee successfully masters a skill they were being coached on. It does not matter how they have learnt but what matters is that learning is celebrated and rewarded.
  • Regular feedback within a learning culture is very important. There are two main areas of feedback that are vital for the creation of a learning environment. Firstly, feedback from the manager to the employee that they directly manage, where the manager can suggest areas of their work which they could benefit from developing and improving on. Secondly, when the employee has begun to work on identified development areas, the employee should give feedback on whether the specific method of learning they are doing is helping them. This will help the manager be better informed for future development through the identification of preferred learning styles. In addition, the employee should give feedback on what, if anything, they have gained from the learning activity. This needs to be constantly assessed as to whether the investment in learning is worthwhile to both the employee and the organisation.
  • Developing blended learning methods. Not all employees learn in the same manner, some learn best in training courses, others prefer a hands-on approach, whereas other may prefer to learn by being coached. Read our blog about alternatives to training courses.

Are Traditional training courses still needed with a learning environment?

There is always going to be a need for training courses in the traditional sense. Training courses have improved and changed over the years and can often be extremely beneficial. Training courses are sometimes the best methods in which specific learning can take place. Within a learning culture, training courses are one of many tools to be utilised without becoming the main focus of the organisation’s learning and development plan.

The Best Ways to Upskill Staff for SMEs

Upskilling employees can be a secret weapon for SMEs against the larger organisations and allows them to punch well above their weight.

Upskilling isn’t about simply training employees to be competent in their current role. Upskilling is the continual act of enabling talent to develop skills that are not necessarily directly related to their current role. Take a look at our recent article: ‘The benefits of upskilling employees’ to read more about the multiple benefits to organisations.

For many SMEs financial budgets are often a concern, so devoting a portion of an already tight budget to upskilling talent that may not directly improve their current job function may seem like a gamble. However, there are ways to begin the process of upskilling employees that won’t cost a great deal, and we’ve outlined some these below to help you get started.

Free Courses

There are many free digital resources and courses that enable employees to learn alongside their job. This is a great way to enable employees to discover if they would like to learn more about a specific area. This doesn’t cost you anything and you will soon start to reap the benefits. For example, Hubspot’s Academy and Google Digital Garage both offer free courses. This is not considering printed resources such as books and case studies. We often neglect these types of resources, but they hold a wealth of knowledge. For the younger generation most of these resources can be found online and in PDF formats.

Mentoring

Often we overlook the amount of knowledge that we have within our own organisation. We often have devoted Marketing, Accountancy, HR and Sales teams that have a wealth of knowledge within their field. Any employee that has an interest within these fields can be linked to a mentor that they can shadow or have one-to-one sessions to pick up new skills. These mentors can even run mini training courses for employees that wish to attend.

Hire Curious People

One of the key principals to upskilling is having employees that wish to better themselves. When hiring new staff explore the idea of learning new skills that are not directly related to their role. Ask to see if they picked up new skills on their own and get a feel if they are curious to learn more. This is the sort of attitude that helps develop the talent that will enable your SME to compete with the ‘big boys’. Once you have this talent, nurture it by partnering individuals up with leaders or provide resources to help them develop themselves further.

Often we see rewards as monetary based, but this does not have to be the case. Rewarding the effort of learning can be as simple as allowing extra time on a lunch break for study, letting employees leave early on a Friday to complete a course or even giving them acknowledgement within the business that they have completed a course. These types of reward will help to improve engagement and reinforce upskilling within the business.

Personal Development Plans

Giving employees a personal development plan in which they can create areas of competence that they wish to work on brings the emphasis of upskilling on to them. Empowering your employees to develop their own plan is a key step in creating a workforce that consistently wants to develop.

Outside Experts

On a daily basis many of us are in contact with partners and suppliers that help us with certain aspects of our business. A great way of getting different skills into your SME is to invite one of those to come into your organisation and talk about their skills and give advice on what they do within their role. Many organisations are happy to send their top talent to speak with you because of the networking possibilities as well as the interpersonal relationships you have built up with them. These can take place over an extended lunch break and cost nothing, except maybe a free lunch! From these events your employees can discover if the areas discussed are something they wish to explore further.

We’re not ignoring the fact that many employers and employees will want or need to use accredited training courses to secure certifications for certain skills. For an SME, that can mean a big commitment in terms of financial investment. However, by encouraging upskilling, an employee can be given the opportunity to show that they are committed to developing their skills whilst remaining with the organisation, which could help their employer decide whether further training is a worthwhile investment.

What is upskilling and how to use it to benefit your SME

The upskilling of staff has become the new ‘must have’ for SMEs and their employees. Employees are now more likely to look at the other benefits on offer to them rather than just the salary itself, and the opportunity to be upskilled ranks highly amongst those benefits.

Upskilling does not only help individuals by developing them to reach their potential, it also helps the organisation to attract and retain staff, as well as improving the performance of the organisation through it people.

What is Upskilling?

Upskilling is very similar to training and development. With both upskilling and training, the idea is to help get the most out of your people by helping them to develop new skills or improve existing skills that are required for the role. The difference between training and upskilling is in the development process. Upskilling is a continual internal drive to help employees develop the skills they want. It is also a conscious effort to help employees discover new talents, encouraging them to bring more back to the organisation. Acquiring new skills that are not necessarily specifically required for their job function empowers people to take control of their own learning and could result in a positive impact for the company in ways that may not have been immediately apparent from the outset. The aim for the SME is to create a positive learning environment.

What are the Benefits of Upskilling?

The benefits of upskilling are mutually beneficial to both the employee and the organisation. We’ve listed some these benefits below:

Employee Retention

Employees that believe that their work is challenging, and feel therefore that they are continually developing their skills, are the happiest within the work environment. When employees are upskilled beyond their normal roles they often are eager to discover what could be the next step to take in their personal development.

Promote from Within

As an SME, attracting the best talent can be a long and difficult process therefore once you have people on board you will want to keep hold of them. The best way to do this is to promote from within. Promoting from within saves time on searching for new talent when you already have an extensive pool within your organisation. However, you will not be able to do this without upskilling them first.

Customer Satisfaction

As the saying goes ‘happy employees means happy customers’. By upskilling your staff, they are more likely to be happy within your organisation, meaning they will be more invested in your brand which in turn will result in them presenting a positive company image to your customers. Also upskilling enables them to think outside the box and better aid your customers.

Attracting Talent

As mentioned above, attracting the best talent can be difficult for SMEs; you may not be able to offer the highest salary or the best perks. However, being able to offer to help give them skills that they want to develop it is a great attraction. Being seen as providing a positive learning environment enables your business to continue to compete with ‘the big boys’.

Productivity

It is obvious to anyone that has had to deal with an unskilled worker that they impact negatively on productivity. However, not only training employees to have the right skills needed for their role but also upskilling them, has a positive impact on productivity. When employees are upskilled, they have a diversification of skills, meaning that they can take on additional tasks or roles, therefore increasing the overall productivity of the organisation.

 

These are just five examples of the way in which upskilling your workforce benefits both your business and its people. As discovered by providing opportunities to upskill you are not committing to simply a noble gesture, but you are enabling rewards to be felt by both the organisation and the employees.

Happiness Hacks for Customer Satisfaction

As a business, customer satisfaction is of the utmost priority. From the first initial interaction alone a customer will form an opinion of your business, and decide whether or not they will become a repeat customer. If you think your company could benefit from refining your customer satisfaction methods, here are some hacks to help.

One on One

One of the top problems that customers face is the never-ending chain of being passed along to the next employee. This could be because the employee requires their manager for the next step, or simply feels the situation would be better handled by a different member of the team. This is frustrating to the customer as it provides a ‘passing the baton’ notion, making the feel as though their issue or purchase is not important to the business.

The ideal way to combat this is to assign a customer to a specific employee, as well as training all employees to be able to handle most customer scenarios. This way, if the customer has an issue with a previous purchase, or indeed anything at all, the employee assigned to the customer has all the relevant information and knowledge needed to help the customer. This provides the customer with a personalised service which actually goes a long way and is likely to acquire more return customers. Training your employees to handle most customer situations also gives your employees a sense of empowerment and capability.

Data focused

It can be very easily forgotten with the information highway that is the internet, but collecting data is a step towards customer satisfaction. By collecting and saving the data you learn about individual customers into a client file, you are providing your team – or even yourself – with knowledge that can form a strong connection between yourself and the customer.

Small personal facts such as their birthday, their children or pets’ names can be useful without being intrusive. This demonstrates to customers that your business conducts a personal service, and ultimately values their customers. Something to remember however is that, due to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), any data you have regarding your customers must stay private and you must be able to provide that data to your customer if they request to view it at any time.

Personalise

In an increasingly faceless world, customers are hard pressed to find businesses they can trust. Customers can often feel like they are out of their depth or undervalued when trying to do business with bigger corporate companies. The preferred method to avoid this is for employees of your business to create a professional relationship with personal aspects. An example of this is for every purchase or service used by a customer, they are sent a personal card to say thank you.

This can seem time consuming and ineffective, however, customers are appreciative of personalised service such as small thank you notes. This is because it shows that an employee has taken time (even if it is 60 seconds) to engage with a customer. Small personal acts such as sending a customer a small note or even an email to say happy birthday – which can be recorded in their client information, are huge impacts on customers and often encourage return customers.

Make a Change

Getting customers to fill out a feedback survey, or indeed most surveys, can be a bit of a challenge. However, despite receiving responses, more often than not businesses do not utilize the free data and suggestions that they are receiving from customers who are filling out their surveys.

More likely than not, the suggestions that you receive from new and existing customers alike can ultimately change aspects of your company for the better. Whether it’s a simple suggestion that could change virtually nothing in your day to day running as a business or implementing a huge change that will improve the running of your company, customers recognise when their suggestions get taken on board and can make them and their views feel valued.

 

Motivated employees mean greater productivity

Research shows that a motivated employee is far more productive than one who is not, therefore making sure your team feel happy and supported is not only ‘the right thing to do’, but it is also right for your business.

Everyone knows the difference between working with someone who is motivated and someone who is not. The extra commitment, enthusiasm, focus and productivity of a motivated person are obvious to see.

Research shows that a motivated employee is far more productive than one who is not, therefore making sure your team feel happy and supported is not only ‘the right thing to do’, but it is also right for your business.

So what should you do when the positive vibes are lacking and how should you deal with an unproductive member of your team? The answer is: you set about changing their attitude!
We’ve come up with a few of the ways in which you can support your employees to help them become more motivated and productive members of your team.

Give training where needed

Everyone hates not knowing what to do. Your employees are more likely to be productive when they understand what exactly is expected from them and they are given the training to perform such a task. Training gives confidence and confidence leads to employees that are productive.

Let your people shine

You’ve invested in training, spent time getting to know your team and have spotted some real potential – so don’t let it go to waste! Giving individuals the opportunity to use their skills to the best of their ability will give them great satisfaction whilst the business will gain value by making the lost of them.

Encourage self-determination

Enable your people to make decisions for themselves at a level appropriate to their role and responsibilities. Allow individuals to initiate and regulate their own actions whilst ensuring line managers step up to their role of supporting their team members. It’s about creating a good level of trust within your business, i.e. does the manager trust the team member to do the job? Does the team member feel trusted?

Be supportive

Make sure your employees know that, however you feel about them, you are willing to offer your support and stand up for them. If employees believe that they are supported by their employer (and their line manager) in getting what they want out of work beyond just money, they will respond with positive behaviour.

Make sure they know their contribution counts

Make sure that your people understand the impact they have on business performance as a whole. At all levels they should be able to describe the contribution they make and the important part they play in the success of the organisation.

 

Team up with INSPIRING…

If you want to increase productivity in your organisation, team up with INSPIRING. We can help you develop an effective employee engagement strategy, which will reward you with greater levels of innovation; increased commitment from employees and, ultimately, better productivity that will impact directly on your business’s performance.