How to create a culture of learning in this _______ environment?

  • Exp.Design LLC

  • May 5, 2022

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You can fill in the blank with remote, war-stricken, pandemic-driven, or racially motivated. Or simply call it hard.

This. environment. is. hard.

It’s especially challenging to capture the attention of your employees and customers when there is a substantial amount of change and discord in society. All of that extra noise is causing a cognitive overload and a decrease in attention span. Where do we start?

Current events, not to mention the stresses of our everyday lives, can affect our mental health, well-being, and emotional state without respect to time or your organization’s KPIs. There is a growing need to step back and evaluate the current environment, and approach your learning culture through an empathetic lens.

Recognize the current state of being & mind

It’s important that you take the time to acknowledge the current state your learners are in. That could be getting adjusted to working at home, needing flexible hours to take care of their families, incorporating best practices for their own mental health, or simply needing more time to work on their projects. Your employees or customers can be presented with an amazing online learning experience to bridge their knowledge gap and increase their rate of adoption of a new product. But if their minds aren't alert and able to focus on their experience, they can miss key information and not progress like their peers.

Hosting forums, surveys with incentives, or weekly check-ins with the manager or an accountability buddy can be the vessel to understanding their mental state and the current pace they need to work. Even though an online learning experience is a great idea to support the needs of the organization, the employees or customers may not have the mental capacity to complete another online course or read a lengthy learning module. After understanding the current state of your learners, you can then research and determine the best learning strategy for them. The best learning method could be a 5-minute podcast about leadership or an experience that includes a short workout session. The mere act of recognizing that it’s OK not to be performing at your highest level all the time, and that their needs are heard and are valid can shift their attitudes and allow them to be open to a change in the learning culture.

Give people the space to be

The past couple of years has caused most organizations to pivot from their original business goals and adapt to the current, ever-shifting environment. As each organization adjusts and figures out its best strategy, so are the employees and customers. They need the space to figure out what’s best for them and how to be themselves at work. Sometimes they may want to cry or they’re simply not capable of giving their full self to their projects. This is an opportunity to allow them to cultivate the culture they need and direct their own growth and learning. Your organization can give them options to customize their experience and offer the chance to meet within communities to discuss various topics and learn from their peers. Removing the deadline from courses by providing them with ample time to meet a requirement removes the pressure of work and learning and gives them space to operate when they are feeling their best selves.

Lead with empathy, understanding, and patience

As leaders, we have to remember that people come before products and processes. When there are people involved, we have to look beyond the massive skills they possess, and remember that they are human and their feelings should be considered.

Start by communicating the goals of the organization and their roles to restate the foundation. Listen to what they can contribute to the team in order to be successful and provide the support they need as well. Support can come in so many different forms: supportive communication, mentoring, learning guides or apps, or time.

Provide customized tools to support them mentally and emotional

When we are busy working on projects and supporting our clients, we may forget the need to not only support product knowledge, but also the mental and emotional state of employees and customers. During the pandemic, organizations like Headspace and Calm offered that time for a mental check between meetings or to renew your energy throughout the day. A company’s learning hub may include everything it needs to develop leaders and support their team, but may not include the basics and allow for moments of mindfulness and re-calibration. We are definitely not saying everyone should stop and do yoga, but think about how to set the tone for the day, the week, the month, and even the year. By providing customized tools that support mental and emotional health, the organization helps the whole person and sets up their employees and customers to be receptive to learning.

To sum it up

As a society, we need a break. Because of everything that is going on, when we think about developing a culture of learning, we have to take a different approach and consider unconventional methods of learning. Most importantly, we have to consider the humans doing the work and participating in the journey. When we think about what they need first and give them the time to operate at their highest level while being patient and supportive, people will then do their best work and value the opportunities to grow and learn.

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