Most managers and executives would likely agree that learning and development is an important ingredient in the future success of their organizations, and most folks would tell you that professional development opportunities are an important consideration when evaluating potential employers.
However, that doesn’t always translate into meaningful learning and development efforts within organizations. Take, for example, this diversity training, from learning and development mastermind, Michael Scott…
Now, this lack of meaningful and substantive organizational development isn’t necessarily from a lack of willingness or effort (though sometimes it is). Often, it’s simply a matter of folks just not knowing where to start or even really how to start thinking about it.
Within the scope of the work I do with clients around cultivating great company culture, learning and development invariably comes up. There is so much to think about, and so many potential questions that an organization has to answer (depending on the organization) to come to a clear organizational philosophy of learning that will subsequently inform what learning and development looks like there.
So if your organization is struggling with learning and development, or maybe even isn’t struggling, per se, but isn’t really hitting on all cylinders, here are some questions you could ask yourselves.
Just for kicks, you could even answer these separately if you’re an executive and/or management team, then come together to compare answers. It wouldn’t be abnormal for there not to be much alignment and clarity around these if you’ve not really talked about them much; but if you want your organization to be a real-deal learning organization where learning and development powers organizational performance, you’ll want to dig deep and answer some of these questions. Doing so is one of the steps toward unleashing the power of learning and development to drive organizational performance.
Questions To Answer About Your Organization’s Culture and Learning
What is the organization’s philosophy of learning?
Is learning and development a central component of the organization’s culture and long-term strategy?
What are the organization’s learning objectives? What is the learning function supposed to accomplish?
How is organizational learning and development aligned with organizational culture and strategic objectives?
How do managers and executives understand and define learning and development?
How do managers and executives understand and define coaching? What are the specific expectations in regards to coaching? What are the expected outcomes? What does successful coaching look like?
How do managers and executives understand and define development?
Is learning and development centralized in a department? Or is it decentralized across the organization? Perhaps something in-between?
Do employees across the organization understand their role in organizational learning? Are they merely receivers of learning? Or are they expected to play a role in the development of others?
What happens when employees aren’t actively engaged in learning and development?
What happens when employees aren’t actively engaged in helping others within the organization learn and grow?
What accountability mechanisms are in place relating to learning and development?
How is knowledge shared within and across the organization? What channels are used?
What tools are at employees’ disposal? Is the technology they’re using an asset or liability to organizational learning and knowledge-sharing?
How do managers and executives encourage an environment of learning and development? Be specific.
[bctt tweet=”Leaders should encourage an environment of learning w/in their teams. #leadership #companyculture”]
Are there any organizational obstacles preventing employees from engaging in learning and development activities? How might those be overcome?
If employees were honest, would they say they feel like they have time for learning and development? Why do they feel that way?
Is learning and development integrated into your performance expectations and evaluations?
Is it woven into other aspects of your organization’s culture?
[bctt tweet=”Learning and development must be woven into your #companyculture. #leadership #hr “]
How often do managers coach their employees? Is learning and development part of each of those conversations? If not, why not?
Have you clearly and specifically explained to the employees how learning and development benefits both them and the organization?
Is active participation in learning and development — both as a receiver and as a developer — a prerequisite for consideration for promotion to management? If not, why not?
How have you promoted and encouraged participation in learning and development activities and initiatives?
Are managers and executives involved in learning and development? Do employees see their managers and executives learning and growing?
[bctt tweet=”Do employees see their managers & execs learning and developing? #leadership”]
If employees were asked, how important would they think their learning and development was to their managers?
If learning and development is an organizational priority (if it’s not, you can skip this question), are you allotting commensurate time and resources to it?
Is there a voice representing learning and development involved in strategic discussions at the executive level?
Is any training or development mandatory? If so, what’s the rationale? If not, why not?
Is learning and development aligned with career paths? Succession planning?
How will you encourage informal learning?
Will you integrate social learning into your learning and development?
How are you developing your organization’s leaders? Is there a formal leadership development program?
How are you identifying and developing the future leaders of your organization?
Is your organization designed in such a way so as to encourage learning and development to flourish?
There are obviously more we could list, and there are multiple ways organizations can approach learning and development. The key is to come to a clear understanding of your organization’s identity, purpose, culture, and values, and then to gain clarity around how learning and development fits into that. If you’re not quite sure how to do that, it just so happens I know a guy who can help. If you have more questions or ideas to add, leave them in the comments!