People want to grow. It’s a basic human need. And organizations that create cultures of learning are going to satisfy this and keep their people—an urgent need during the time of The Great Resignation.

Creating a learning culture takes time, but the investment is worth it. LinkedIn Learning’s 2019 Workplace Learning report found that roughly 94% of employees say they would stay at a company longer if it invested in helping them learn. Think of the return on investment (ROI) for organizations that created a learning culture — greater engagement, better retention, less isolation and higher productivity would be just a few of the benefits. It’s a small investment that pays exponential dividends.

Here are some ways you can create a culture of learning in your organization to retain top talent.

Drive Growth and Momentum

Leaders can make learning a priority. One way to do this is to ask employees the following questions:

  • Where do you want to grow, learn, and develop?
  • What would make your job easier?
  • What would help you serve at the highest level?
  • If you could learn anything to be more empowered, what would it be?

When you ask these kinds of questions, you’ll likely get answers you never imagined. Act on them by helping your people improve and grow. You give people a tremendous gift when you do this. And you’ll also receive some surprises, for instance, an employee who wants to be a mentor or a servant leader, or perhaps wants to learn about negotiation. Share their enthusiasm and create opportunities for intentional learning goals.

When we put a stake in the ground like this, it literally lights up the prefrontal cortex — the part of the brain responsible for cognition, attention, inhibition, memory, flexibility, and the release of dopamine. Your brain says to you, “Start noticing this! Start applying it!”

Make Goals Precise

Having precise goals makes learning a more rewarding experience. Plus, the more precise the learning goals you set with your people, the less stress you put on them. When people are clear on where to focus, they don’t have to try to do it all. They just focus on what’s important. Then, you help them learn and have them practice (and practice and practice) to be successful. Once they’ve mastered the new skill, ask “What else do you want to learn?” and write a new clear goal. This creates a learning organization.

Here is a three-step process you can use to help your people embrace growth and momentum.

  1. Have each person create an individual learning plan.
  2. Value their learning by protecting the time they need to learn, helping them see examples of what a good job looks like, and asking them to teach the team what they have learned.
  3. Measure the impact of their growth. What are the cost savings that come from solving a problem?

When you embed learning and growth in your culture, you help people feel important. You also create a team focused on action learning. Action learning is when people determine a problem, decide what they need to learn to solve the problem, create teams to go out and get smart (this is the learning part of action learning,) share their brilliance, repeat that process and then solve the problem by acting on what they’ve learned. This gives you permission to place a challenge before your people and let them tackle it on their own terms and create motivation-enhancing momentum.

Connect People to Stimulate Learning

We crave a sense of belongingness. In our professional life, this translates into staying with organizations where we feel like we belong. Having people share what they are learning with each other makes your company a place where they want to stay.

Here are three things you can do to create an learning environment where people grow roots into your culture instead of jumping to a competitor:

  • Be a relationship architect: The best managers take a personal interest in their people. They care about them. They also introduce their people to other colleagues. A good leader helps people expand their networks, spotlights their successes and encourages them to collaborate with others. If you have a retention plan that keeps track of the personal interests of every employee, you automatically know who in the department might enjoy meeting each other. Another idea is to make sure everyone has a mentor and is a mentor. When this happens, two people (in addition to the manager) are invested in the success of every employee.
  • Energize people and give space for love: There’s nothing like feeling loved, watching people be energized and giving love while connecting others. But we don’t necessarily do that. Think about this: As leaders, we have three choices every time we interact with our people: We can energize them, drain them or leave things unchanged. The best managers energize their people, which includes giving them the space to talk about their ideas, share what they appreciate about each other and get to know what’s important to other team members. You can help by creating a safe, loving environment where people flourish, are engaged and are excited to get to know one another.
  • Actively build relationships of care: We are living in a time of virtual overload and widespread burnout. A powerful antidote to this is to actively build relationships of care. Ask your people questions such as: “Are you fulfilled?” or “What drains you?” Then see if you can reassign responsibilities based on what you learn.

Leaders can use one on ones, team meetings, huddles, in services, trainings or lunch-and-learns to ask their people:

  • What would you like our team to do to connect at a deeper level?
  • What would be fun to do together?
  • How can we actively build relationships?
  • What do you love about your work?
  • How can we become a more innovative, learning organization?

Resignation to Reengagement

The Great Resignation is not a decree written in stone. People can be reengaged. It starts building a culture of learning. It is a daily practice of creating energized learners who feel appreciated for their efforts and who know someone cares about them personally and professionally.

As a leader, you play a pivotal role in creating a culture of learning. Help your people grow, and they will want to stay with you and your organization.

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