Workplace culture goes way beyond offering perks such as pool tables and team building activities. In fact, the majority of employees consider their professional development to be their number one priority in assessing how satisfied they are in their job role. The training team therefore has a huge part to play in determining the motivation levels of the workforce and whether the organization can attract and retain talent in order to compete effectively.

Let’s explore how your training team can elevate the visibility and status of learning in the workplace through certifications, badges and better recognition. We’ll also explore how to harness informal learning practices that enrich the normal flow of work.

What Employees Want Versus What You Provide

Did you know that 47% of active job seekers cite company culture as their central reason for applying for job roles? Yet, in many organizations, there is a vast mismatch between the culture that organizations think employees want and the culture they really want.

This is especially prevalent in organizations trying to attract millennials and Gen Z workers — table tennis, in-office bars and lunchtime yoga classes abound. But these novelties get old very quickly, with most people looking for a workplace culture that runs deeper.

Employees want to feel valued, heard and appreciated. Just 51% of employees think their organization is great at listening to employees, but when companies do listen effectively to their people, there is a 1,250% increase in employee engagement. Just paying lip service is clearly very costly.

Unfortunately, many employees still view training as a box-ticking exercise. If your employees don’t see the benefit of engaging with your training, why would they want to? Too often, training is offered “just in case,” and unsurprisingly is then received as purely a mandatory exercise to “get through.” Instead, training should be seen as an experience that is valued and genuinely supportive in guiding and improving performance on the job. Look carefully at the balance of your learning and development (L&D) portfolio and ensure that the activities you are asking people to conduct are aligned to their actual job needs at the time. This will help improve training effectiveness and outcomes considerably.

Rewards and Recognition

Let’s assume the training on offer is contextualized and valuable to the employee. Sometimes you still need to attract and hold attention long enough for this to be fully recognized. That’s where rewards and recognition come in.

Open Badges are a useful way to reward employees for completing courses, whether these are compulsory or optional. Open badges are portable digital badges that can be displayed on social media and move with learners throughout their careers, giving them “evidence” of their achievements and effort.

You might also consider offering certifications, whether these come from your organization or a third party. This is especially useful for skills requiring more complex mastery. For instance, you could offer your marketing team the chance to work toward a Google certification, or your business development team the opportunity to earn a M.B.A. This will not just benefit your organization through the additional skills gained, but it also provides a clear answer to the reasonable question so often asked by employees: “What’s in it for me?”

JetBlue’s Scholars program is one example of rewarding and recognizing employees for their learning efforts. Employees were given the option to earn a college degree through work at a fraction of the cost of going to college. This not only helped JetBlue employees develop their skills and knowledge, but also led to 96% of participants saying that they are committed to staying with JetBlue.

Leverage Informal Learning

Top-down, formalized learning on its own isn’t the full story. It reinforces a “I know best” mentality, where managers equate knowledge to power. In a world that is changing rapidly, this is no longer true. Longstanding and new employees have skills and knowledge of value to others at all levels in the organization. Encouraging a culture of sharing and informal learning will have a major positive impact on your company culture. Colleagues may already share information organically, whether that’s in the office kitchen or over employee messaging platforms, but using a learning experience platform (LXP) offers structure that will enable you to harness this knowledge more widely across your organization, to the benefit of a much wider audience.

Knowledge sharing among peers nurtures a culture of trust and transparency across the organization. Setting up workspaces for specific teams or goals will bring together employees with the same ambitions and knowledge requirements without having to rely exclusively on formal training. Indeed, you should be looking at the design of all your training to ensure it embodies informal learning opportunities throughout. And you should be monitoring informal learning activity to spot areas that formal training may be missing and would be beneficial. Equally, looking for evidence of training programs that aren’t adding value — so take the opportunity to ditch those and reinvest elsewhere.

Alignment is Key

We can’t talk about learning without also talking about performance management. The two are inextricably linked. People learn best when that learning is goal driven. That requires clear communication and agreement on what those goals are. The quality of conversation and feedback between managers, their team members and peers is critical for success.

If learners have a clear goal in mind, an aligned organizational culture will naturally follow. For instance, if the organization’s mission is “to be the best provider of [add your sector here] technology products in the world,” employees at all levels can create goals that feed into this mission. This may be “offering stellar customer service” or “retaining more customers” or “increasing our brand exposure” – whatever it is, your people can work with their managers to agree how they will play a part in achieving the organization’s overarching mission.

An integrated performance management system cements this link between workplace performance and learning. Managers and employees can agree on a performance goal, and then allocate relevant learning to help them achieve that goal. This may be a formal learning course, a workshop, coaching or even involvement in relevant discussions with peers in collaborative workspaces (that live on the dedicated LXP or surfaced within existing communication tools).

Using Training to Improve Company Culture

Providing employees with a robust learning program will help ensure that everyone feels valued and the organization is committed to their development. When your people have the opportunity to develop in alignment with common goals and within a culture of autonomy and safety, everyone benefits, as well as the bottom line. Breaking down the traditional silos between learning, engagement and performance management will create a productive, trusting and open company culture fit for the new world of work.

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