BY JAMES BLAIN
When it comes to moving the performance needle in your business, few things are as powerful as developing a learning culture. Regardless of how good someone is at any one task or job, they must constantly be learning while receiving feedback on how they are doing, where they excel, and what they can improve to reach their full potential. The mindset, however, is often that once someone masters the fundamentals of their job, they no longer need to learn or be coached—which can lead to employee turnover, mistakes, and other issues.
This applies to everyone at your company, but it is especially true of remote workers and drivers. Since they spend most of their time out of the office, they are the most at risk of adopting bad habits, and often the only indication that they are slipping or not performing at a high level is a customer complaint or accident.
To avoid falling into the trap of this thinking, your company culture should encourage employees to look for ways to improve and grow, even when they are already doing well. This begins with fostering a continual development mindset from the top down. Leaders have to be willing to take calculated risks on new ideas, invest time and money into employee training, and reward those who are continually striving to improve.
What Is a Learning Culture?
This type of culture puts an emphasis on continued self-improvement and ongoing learning. This typically takes two forms, the mental form of the expectation and the physical form of what your company does to embody and facilitate it. However, you shouldn’t confuse it with unrealistic expectations of employee performance or work. The goal is to create an environment where they feel supported, and where even failure is seen as an opportunity to improve rather than a source of shame or punishment. A learning culture should allow employees to stop and recognize their successes.
Importance and Benefits
As we all know, accidents, service failures, and mistakes are inevitable and can cost you dearly, sometimes affecting customer relationships and creating distrust and reputation problems. However, the learning mindset empowers your team to take initiative and apply that education. By forging a culture that is focused on sharpening those personal development skills, you can ensure you’re at the top of the game in your industry with the most relevant training and knowledge necessary for them to perform at their best. When done right, it allows both your team and your business to benefit from greater productivity, higher morale, and improved profitability. It inspires everyone to be on the same page, to become better every day, and cultivate an atmosphere that emphasizes delivering superior quality service in a nurturing work environment where everyone feels supported and engaged in the company’s success.
❱ Keeps Employees Engaged and Motivated: When employees feel like they are learning and growing, they are more likely to be engaged and motivated in their work. The result of this is a reduction in turnover, increased productivity, and higher job satisfaction.
❱ Improved Customer Satisfaction: Employees can better understand customer needs and deliver services that meet those requirements, which leads to better experiences for your clients that will ultimately result in more return business.
❱ Boosts Your Company’s Reputation: By creating a learning culture, you can build an organization that is known for its commitment to excellence, continuous improvement, and a strong, positive brand.
❱ Impact on Drivers: Their skills, knowledge, and dedication are integral to keeping customers happy and satisfied, so opportunities for growth and development can lead to decreased accidents, improved efficiency, keeping up with technology and trends, and increased morale. Such rewards not only help drivers stay engaged but can also lead directly to retention, return business, and improved customer referrals—ensuring greater success for the company. Bottom line: creating a learning culture is essential for your future success.
Why Companies Struggle
If the positives are so strong, then why do so many companies battle with creating a learning culture? It’s often because they don’t feel like they have the time or bandwidth for it. To meet demand, they must get drivers on the road quickly, which often means rushing through hiring and training. It may solve the immediate problem, but the long-term effects are often mistakes, not following procedures accidents, and other issues that ultimately cost the company even more.
Other common impediments:
❱ A lack of clear expectations
❱ Focusing on short-term results over long-term development
❱ Poor planning, organization, and communication in training
❱ Not actively taking control of their culture
❱ A false sense that it will cost more
❱ Viewing employees as replaceable, especially drivers
❱ Not explaining to employees why continuous improvement matters
Steps to Create a Learning Culture
It isn’t enough to just talk about the culture you want; you need to have a plan in place to support it. Map out what you want your learning culture to be like, how to put it in place, and how to prevent it from getting looked over or brushed aside when the pressure is on.
The first step is to make sure that everyone in your organization has time and access to the resources they need to continuously improve their skillset by having your procedures and processes documented, even the simplest ones. You also need to have systems in place to ensure the training is automatic and easy.
There are four key areas you want to focus on: communication, collaboration, feedback, and recognition. The most successful companies have embraced these four areas and instilled the importance of each into their team, resulting in soaring employee performance.
Effective communication provides employees with clear expectations where they can measure themselves and improve. Encouraging employees to share ideas, provide feedback, and hold up to one another is a crucial element of a learning culture. Trust, caring, and ownership are the cornerstones. When employees understand that their contributions are important, they will be more engaged, productive, and motivated to continually develop their skills.
Feeling like you are a valued part of a team and having a strong relationship with the people you work with plays a big role in productivity and motivation. It can also make a difference when it comes to staff members going above and beyond. Working together as one unit creates an atmosphere of learning, where each person is contributing their skills and knowledge for the benefit of the whole team. Problems arise when employees feel disconnected and disempowerment, which can be true of anyone including drivers and remote workers. Making sure there is ample facetime and communication can make a big difference.
Having time when everyone can come together as a team is also important, even if it is only once a quarter. It helps to build relationships and trust between employees. However, you need to make sure that your activities include a team development component and not just a pure work or social focus.
If you look at the highest-performing teams in the world you will see there is one clear thing they all do: beyond planning and training before, they always take time to review how it is going or how it went after. That debriefing is just as important as planning, especially when it comes to maintaining and ensuring continued performance. This process sets the stage for future improvement and continued development.
In the business world, it is this debriefing step that is most often overlooked or skipped altogether. The focus often shifts to the next task or continuing to meet clients’ demands. Without any feedback, even those who regularly perform well can slip over time, which can lead to turnover and other issues. The best way to avoid this is to focus on implementing a continuous feedback loop where employees’ performance is discussed and evaluated with constructive criticism they can learn from, highlighting both strengths and weaknesses. Providing positive feedback can also go a long way in creating a culture where employees feel appreciated and valued.
Praise is often overshadowed by criticism, but celebrating wins and successes motivates employees to keep going and maintain the same level of excellence. Recognizing employees for their hard work can come in many forms such as verbal praise, awards, or being honored in front of their peers. Don’t forget to also recognize those that improve and are striving to be better. Rewarding learning reinforces the idea that it is important, which encourages others to follow suit. Your supportive and inclusive workplace should include access to mentors/coaching, promoting diversity and equality, and encouraging a healthy work-life balance.
“Why do so many companies battle with creating a learning culture? It’s often because they don’t feel like they have the time or bandwidth for it.”Demonstrating Commitment Starts at the Top
When leaders actively participate in training and development opportunities and encourage their employees to do the same, they set an example and send a clear message that knowledge and growth are valued. By embracing the culture and leading by example, managers can help foster an environment in which everyone feels supported and motivated to consistently excel and evolve.
Your End Goal
The end result of creating a learning culture is improved safety, increased efficiency, and higher morale. By investing in training and taking the time to provide support while employees learn, companies can reap the rewards of having skilled drivers behind the wheel. Not only will you have more satisfied customers, but you’ll also be setting your organization up for long-term success.
Creating this type of culture is an ongoing process that requires dedication and commitment to make sure it’s successful. The key is to focus on setting the right foundation, providing continual support and feedback to your employees, and keeping an open mind to new ideas and methods of learning. With these in place, you can be sure that your organization is on its way to a brighter future. [CD0323]
James Blain is President of PAX Training. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.