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How to foster a culture of self-improvement

By 13/02/2017August 8th, 2023Personal Development

People will only learn if they want to. This is one of the most important – if hardest – lessons any business owner or HR professional should take on board.

Sure, you can book people on week-long training courses and invest heavily in on-site development of their skills, but if they don’t want to learn, they simply won’t. You could create the best course material on the planet or employ the services of the most engaging trainers within your market – it simply doesn’t matter if the desire isn’t there on behalf of those in attendance.

The ability to learn is simply a mindset, although one that’s developed very early on in life. As kids, we’re desperate to learn more about the things we love doing; football, reading, horse riding – whatever it is that sparks a deep interest.

That desire to learn is carried through into adult life, only it becomes a little more sophisticated. As we grow in confidence and become more experienced with the world around us, the desire to understand more about the mechanics of life, industry and leisure activities grows.

The same degree of proactive learning should exist in business, but it is all too often vacant. Dull courses, uninspiring teaching methods and training material that is completely irrelevant to the job at hand will never connect with our innate desire to learn as human beings.

But how do you foster a culture of self-improvement?

Good news – we’ve got the answers, and we’d like to let you into a few secrets in this blog post.

Take a fresh, modern approach to social media and instant messaging
Businesses thrive on good communication. Without it, departments often work at odds with one another and the lack of coherence means employees usually have vastly different understandings of the business goals.

To be able to learn effectively in the modern working environment, employees need access to the most appropriate communication tools. In 2017 and beyond, that means relying on instant messaging platforms and social media in conjunction with the more traditional forms of communication.

A report conducted last year found evidence that social channels and modern internal communication methods are driving employee engagement. It’s why companies are turning to intranets and in-app messaging to ensure everyone can stay in touch and fully informed.

If your business is yet to harness the power of modern communication technology, it’s missing out. And, while it may be tempting to ban what is often seen as frivolous, extracurricular activity from use within the office, the benefits of using these platforms are fast tempting businesses to realign their thinking.

If you still need convincing, think about how people learn in the digital age; if we need an answer to something, we pick up our smartphone and ask it a question; to increase our knowledge of a particular subject, we head to social media and see what influencers are saying.

Your staff are doing this already, so make sure you give them the opportunity to do so within the four walls of the business, too.

Make the opportunities obvious to all

Let’s take another trip down memory lane to when we where children. Back then, we desperately wanted to learn how to play football or play the guitar because we knew there were significant opportunities ahead if we became proficient.

Clearly, the thought process back then was rather more simple; learn guitar, become as cool as Slash. Now, it’s far more intricate. In business, we’ll be more encouraged to learn a new skill if we can see a significant wage rise beyond or the ability to jump into the shoes of an outgoing peer.

It’s for this reason that businesses should always take the opportunities that are available to staff blindingly obvious.

There are several ways this can be done:

• Always advertise vacancies internally, and do so prominently (announce them at company meetings and on social media, rather than simply stapling them to the notice board)
• When new products and services are announced, provide a clear view of the roadmap, detailing the avenues the new developments may open up for the business
• If a new market segment is discovered, shout about it from the rooftops and encourage cross-company feedback on how best to tackle it
• Give every employee the ability to have their five minutes of fame at company meetings – let the spotlight shine on them if they have something they want to say

• The techniques above will force staff to realise that the company actively encourages personal development and values what they have to say about the future. It also demonstrates a willingness, to be honest about the company’s plans – in turn showing exactly what opportunities lie ahead for anyone willing to put everything into their own personal development.

• Encourage sideways movements within the business
• Promotions shouldn’t always result in another step up the corporate ladder and increased pay packet.
• No, really; gaining a promotion at work should result in a new role that makes you happier and more determined to succeed. For some, that will indeed be the next level up, but for others, it might be a completely different role in another part of the business.

• Such sideways movements should be encouraged. They may not always result in better pay, but if staff know they’re not stuck within a rigid progression path, they’ll always keep an eagle eye out for opportunities elsewhere within the business.

• Do everything you can to encourage sideways movements within the organisation. As part of the performance development review (PDR) process, ensure that managers feel able to discuss such opportunities with their staff and empower the staff themselves to talk openly about any desires they may have to try different things.

• Don’t pigeonhole; make cross-training available
• Sideways movements can only take place if cross-training opportunities are made available to all staff. Such learning is great not only for the employees, but for the business itself.

• We now live in the era of the ‘multipersonality’ where the ability to demonstrate a high or moderate level of skill in more than one discipline is highly valued.

• The benefits are obvious. If you have a member of the accounts team who is also a gifted designer, who better to call in when it’s time to rebrand? The company benefits from a lower capital outlay for the work and the employee realises that they can apply their second skill within the same building.

• A common mistake made by businesses is to pigeonhole training sessions; if a social media marketing course is only made available to the marketing team, how can anyone else benefit from the development of this crucial skill? Who’s to say those in the sales team or production department wouldn’t want a bite at that cherry, too?

• They probably do. Break down the walls surrounding training and ensure everyone gets the chance to learn, no matter what it says on their business card.

Final thoughts

• You can’t force people to learn, nor can you turn employees into self-improvement gurus overnight. Instead, and as with so many things in business, it all comes down to the company culture.

• When you enter your place of work every day, you need to feel empowered to learn, but if the training made available to you appears to be neither relevant nor exciting, why should you? Imagine instead a fluid, dynamic culture which makes it abundantly clear that opportunities exist for everyone within the business. In that realm, you’d be far more compelled to dip your toes into foreign water.

• We hope you’ve found this post enlightening. There’s no quick fix, and the methods described above require time and effort if they’re to have a positive effect on your company’s culture, but stick with them and you’ll quickly start fostering a culture of self-improvement.