Creating Learning Friendly Work Environments

In our blog below, Dr Peter Honey discusses how to create learning friendly work environments.

The job of every manager is to help his or her staff to be successful. The accent is on the word “help” because it is impossible to make people successful; only to create the conditions where it is likely people will succeed because they are able, willing and allowed. One of the most promising ways to bring this about is to focus on creating an environment at work where achieving and learning go hand-in-hand as complementary, win-win, activities. Since learning is an inevitable by-product of any activity, many managers kid themselves that merely keeping people busy will do the trick.

Accidental vs. Planned Learning

However, there is a vast difference between “accidental” learning which “just happens” and learning which is deliberately encouraged and made a priority. Hopefully, you are attracted to the benefits of making learning a mainstream activity – rather than leaving it to its own devices? But, as ever, being persuaded by the rhetoric and getting it to happen is not the same thing.

What is it that managers need to do, better or differently, to create a learning-friendly environment? It boils down to taking action in four different ways:

  1. Be a role model by demonstrating in your behaviour and actions that you are an enthusiastic learner/develope
  • identifying and seizing learning opportunities as they arise
  • sharing what you have learned from your successes and mistakes
  • having an on-going personal development plan
  • reviewing your experiences to see what to do differently/better
  • inviting feedback on your performance (and learning from it!)
  • experimenting with different ways of doing things
  • planning to learn from activities such as chairing a meeting, making a presentation, attending a conference.
  1. Be a provider of learning/development opportunities for your staff
  • coaching people to maintain and improve their performance
  • encouraging people to ask questions, experiment, review their performance and reflect on lessons learned
  • brief and debrief people before and after they participate in training events
  • supporting people when they suffer set-backs, encounter difficulties
  • provide people with “stretch” developmental opportunities
  • consciously providing people with work-based opportunities to learn and develop
  • providing rewards and recognition for the effort people invest in their learning and development.
  1. Build learning into the system so that it is integrated with normal work processes and firmly on the “conscious agenda”
  • having a process in place for agreeing and reviewing personal development plans
  • conducting learning reviews where people swap experiences and share learning
  • using a formal, systematic process to get people to identify learning opportunities
  • benchmarking good practice
  • fixing people up with a learning “buddy”, coach or mentor
  • holding formal learning reviews at the conclusion of projects, significant meetings/happenings
  • having a learning forum (virtual or real) where people can exchange know-how and best practice.
  1. Champion the importance of learning for other parts of your organisation
  • pointing out the penalties your organisation incurs through a lack of organisational learning e.g. recurring mistakes, wheels reinvented, poor staff retention
  • enthusing about learning as the overarching capability
  • creating opportunities for cross-functional/cross-boundary/multi-disciplinary problem solving
  • persuading colleagues to fully utilise work-based learning opportunities
  • finding out what other organisations are doing to promote learning and development
  • challenging existing strategies, policies and practices that hinder learning.

None of these things are exactly rocket science but, taken collectively, they are the actions that make a difference and put learning firmly centre stage. Dr Peter Honey

Find out more about the Honey and Mumford: Learning Style Questionnaire