Building a culture of continuous improvement, learning & development at work

Countless articles and posts have been written about how in this fast changing world, people and organisations need to be constantly acquiring new knowledge and skills for individuals to remain marketable and for organisations to remain competitive.

It is also clear that many in the L&D world understand that continuous learning is an important aspect of modern workplace learning – if the commentary coming out of recent conferences is anything to go by.

It is good to hear that this is generating a lot of talk but it is also all obvious that there is very little activity taking place in this area. The reason for this seems to be that most in L&D do not know what it actually means in practice for their work. One thing is for certain, it is not a matter of just providing continuous training. The traditional model of workplace learning (of doing things to people and making sure they are done) is no longer enough or appropriate today; L&D’s work now needs to be much broader and deeper than before.

It starts by building a continuous learning culture where every individual is responsible for their own continuous improvement, learning and development, and a culture where managers have a key role in ensuring that this is an integral part of daily work. In other words, Learning & Development is no longer just an organisational function but a continuous organisational process.

For those working in L&D roles, it means shifting from a “command and control” role (that focuses on designing, delivering and managing training – although some of that will still need to take place for compliance and conformance purposes) to an “enable and support” role that focuses on helping everyone continuously improve, learn and develop – in whatever way they prefer and is best for them and their situation. And we know that nowadays people learn in a multitude of ways for, through and at work (see right).

The reality for today’s L&D therefore is that their work now needs to evolve into three overlapping streams to support all these ways of learning (as shown on the revised framework diagram below) and briefly described below.

1 – Promote Continuous Learning

This means encouraging and supporting individuals to organise and manage their own continuous self-improvement and self-development – both formally and informally, as well as providing a continuous flow of (created or curated) learning opportunities.

2 – Create Modern Content, Events and Experiences

This means using modern formats and delivery methods to create modern training and on demand performance support – for compliance or conformance, or (where appropriate) to address performance problems.

3 – Support Continuous Improvement at Work

This means helping managers grow and develop their teams and building a knowledge sharing culture as well as helping individuals get the most out of their daily work.

So how can you find out more about the practicalities of building a culture of continuous learning in your own organisation, and what it means for your own team?

I’ve been helping L&D teams all around the world through bespoke consultancy as well as a number of public initiatives.

  • I facilitate a series of online workshops for L&D professionals where I provide the opportunity to discuss and share their own organisational issues and activities.
  • I’m in the final stages of completing my new online resource book, Continuous Improvement Learning & Development which provides lots of ideas and guidance and support for this new area of work.
  • I’ve also teamed up with LearnTec conference organisers and will be hosting a special 3-day (English-speaking) Modern Workplace Learning track at the event in Karlsruhe (Germany) in January 2019 – but more about that in an upcoming post.
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Jane Hart

Jane Hart helps organisations and learning professionals modernise their approaches to workplace learning - through public workshops and bespoke consultancy. She is the Editor of the Modern Workplace Learning Magazine, and is the author of a number of books including Modern Workplace Learning 2018 as well as the resource for individuals How to become a Modern Professional Learner. Jane was the 2018 recipient of the ATD Distinguished Contribution to Talent Development award. You can contact Jane at Jane.Hart@C4LPT.co.uk.