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3 Ways Leaders Can Create a Shared Learning Culture

Tuesday, February 6, 2018
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The biggest challenge for today’s professionals is to stay relevant in a world that is constantly changing. The average half-life of a learned skill is five years, and that number will continue to decline over the next several years. We can no longer learn in solidarity. Instead, organizations must create a culture of shared learning, where everyone is learning together every single day. Simply searching Google for information or enrolling in an online course isn’t enough to keep pace with all the changes. We have to count on each other to acquire the knowledge and skills required to stay ahead of the curve.

While many organizations have collaborative tools, like Slack, that enable the free flow of information regardless of location, proximity matters. Rather than texting, emailing or posting back and forth, all you need to do is walk a foot and ask for help. Anuradha A. Gokhale, an associate professor at Western Illinois University, found that students who participated in collaborative learning performed better on critical thinking tests than those who studied in isolation. Being a shared learner is a great way to close the skills gap, create new organizational relationships, and power your organization.

Leaders are responsible for supporting their teams by creating a culture where information is freely shared and employees are open to helping others. When employees see that their leaders aren’t hoarding information but sharing it, they will mimic that behavior.

Here are three ways that leaders can create a shared learning culture:

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1. Share what you know. When your employee needs help with a task, share your knowledge with them. Coach them until they learn the skill. Then, empower them to do the same for their teammates. By doing this, you scale your efforts and create a culture that promotes learning.

2. Give constant feedback. Your employees are too impatient to wait for their annual performance review. They want regular feedback. For instance, after a meeting, you could pull them aside and first tell them what they did effectively and then how they could have improved. Maybe their idea was good but their tone was off-putting. By giving them this feedback, they are more likely to perform better in the next meeting.

3. Promote the expertise of others. Sit down with each of your employees individually and learn more about their expertise. Make a note of the top skills they have and then send around a Google Doc with a list of all your employees’ skills. This notifies your team about how they can rely on each other to solve business problems. Unless they are aware of these skills, they can’t leverage them.

By creating a shared learning culture, you can stay ahead of the curve and cultivate the team relationships that power the future of your company. Time and time again when we survey employees, we find that learning and development is one of the most important benefits that they seek. When you create an environment that promotes learning, it not only helps you hire the best talent but also keep them.

For a deep dive, check out my upcoming book, Back to Human: How Great Leaders Create Connection in the Age of Isolation. And be sure to join me at the ATD 2018 Conference & Expo for my session on Sunday, May 6 at 11:45 a.m.

About the Author
Dan Schawbel is the Founder of WorkplaceTrends.com, a research and advisory membership service for forward-thinking HR professionals, as well as the Managing Partner of Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and consulting firm. Dan is the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success (St. Martin’s Press) and the #1 international bestselling book, Me 2.0: 4 Steps to Building Your Future (Kaplan Publishing), which combined have been translated into 15 languages. Dan is a columnist at both TIME and FORBES, and has been featured in over 1,000 media outlets, such as “The Today Show” on NBC, “Street Signs” on CNBC, “The Nightly Business Report” on PBS, “The Willis Report” on Fox Business, “Fox & Friends” on Fox News, NPR, People Magazine, The Economist and Wired magazine. He’s spoken at Google, NBC Universal, McGraw-Hill, Oracle, Harvard Business School, MIT, Time Warner, IBM, and CitiGroup. Dan was named to the Inc. magazine "30 Under 30" list in 2010, the Forbes magazine "30 Under 30" list in 2012, and BusinessWeek cites him as someone entrepreneurs should follow.
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Thanks for this, Dan. I used to believe that to be effective, collaborative learning needed to be in-person. That was before I worked with a dynamic global consulting firm with strong technology to support lively and near-constant communication with my teammates and stakeholders who on any given day may be anywhere in the world. After 7 years, I continue to be impressed and delighted to witness collaborative learning - both formal and informal - essentially built into the fabric of our work.
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