In today’s market, companies must adapt almost as quickly as new information becomes available. The information-driven era in which we do business today produces insights that shift markets within weeks, days or even hours, depending on the industry.

According to Domo, between 2016 and 2017, we produced 2.5 quintillion (that’s 18 zeroes) bytes of data each day. As of January 2019, over half the world’s population were internet users, contributing to the production of exponentially more data. For example, people search Google almost 4.5 million times per minute.

Imagine that your learners are standing at the edge of an ocean with a teaspoon. As a tidal wave of data washes over them, they are easily swept away in the current, lost in a swirl of information.

Today’s knowledge workers need a way to dip into a specific part of the ocean with the right-sized bucket to capture only what they need to achieve success — theirs and your organization’s.

People have an amazing capacity to adapt. Learning is the most critical method by which we can respond to the world’s data dump without drowning. As a result, keeping up in the information age requires organizations to embrace a learning culture.

We need to expand our thinking about learning to include more than traditional classes and seminars. A learning culture consists of ongoing interaction, coaching and competency development and produces sustainable change that drives company strategy. The wisdom of “learn something new every day” must become part of the organizational DNA and embedded in the way we work.

Creating and maintaining this learning culture gives you the strategic lever you need to dip into the ocean of data and knowledge with a tanker instead of a teaspoon. Instead of striving to fill skill gaps the same way for everyone, resulting in incremental changes at best, a learning culture provides a more focused approach, ensuring individuals have access to learning that is relevant to their professional development needs.

The progress to proficiency (P2P) model — the synthesis of selection, development and environment — produces this learning culture. The absence of any one of these three factors impedes progress, while optimizing each one accelerates progress.

Selection

First, selection involves choosing the right people for the training — assuming that the organization has hired the right people into the right roles.

Traditionally, learning meant bringing people together, face to face, to receive the same information simultaneously. This format usually precipitated one-way conversations about the skill itself. Contemporary face-to-face learning (in conjunction with other learning channels) encourages participants to talk about the relevance, importance and application of skills in their roles. Learners gain new insights that enable them to internalize new skills and immediately apply them to their work.

P2P advances more quickly and effectively when learners converse and interact with one another, sharing ideas, insights and personal “war stories.” Participants engage as learners and teachers, shifting the culture toward ongoing adaptability that drives not just employee success but market success.

Proper selection must incorporate the right mix of people who can learn from and teach or mentor one another.

Development

As we expand our thinking about learning and the learning culture, the ideal experience focuses on the activities and associated competencies tied to the business’ strategy. The most successful learning solutions incorporate multiple modalities for learning to ensure relevance and immediate applicability.

Sometimes, training participants may not recognize the need to improve their competencies until they are faced with the challenge of proving they can do more than just talk about what they know. In a group of thoughtfully selected colleagues, participants may become keenly aware of how much they don’t know. The “aha!” moments in the classroom usually connect several dots: The participant connects a personal skill gap to the knowledge or skill he or she needs and then connects the capability to the company’s strategy.

When employees connect themselves and their personal development to their functions’ goals and the success of the company, they start bringing bigger buckets to the ocean, taking personal responsibility of their development on a day-to-day basis.

Environment

The best training programs leverage the environment — ultimately, wherever and with whomever an employee works. We want learners to take the competencies they’ve practiced and internalized — whether through web-based, book-based, classroom-based or any other place-based methods — and connect them to strategic execution, actively supported by their manager. When practice in a learning environment becomes doing in the work environment, progress accelerates.

For organizations to succeed in today’s data-saturated environment, they must optimize learning opportunities. Combining selection, development and environment accelerates progress to proficiency and makes learning the strategic lever needed to fill skill gaps in a meaningful and profitable way.

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