Implementing a culture of cyclical learning

Lee Cottle says it’s time to look at ways of maintaining a learning mindset.

Driving a business forward to success requires a number of key ingredients but at the very core are just two: a product or service designed to meet demand, and a highly skilled, motivated workforce. The responsibility for both rests upon upper management, but when it comes to the second in particular there is a disconnect between levels.

Most HR or learning and development teams will have a myriad of training programmes set up for the employees under their watch. But how about themselves? Ask yourself this, as you help develop those beneath you on the hierarchical ladder, how are those above and beside you learning?

The great entrepreneur Henry Ford once said, “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at 20 or 80. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.” Therefore, it is time to look at ways of maintaining a learning attitude at all levels.

Cyclical learning

Modern training packages focus mainly on those receiving the training, as they should, so what changes can you make to repurpose existing materials into an all-encompassing system?

One of the bigger barriers to cyclical learning are the preconceived ideas of who in a company needs to be learning

Cyclical relationships in business place all employees at the same level generating open and honest conversations around company training policy allowing all parties to grow. Shouting through a megaphone with earplugs in may result in others picking up new information but it blocks those shouting from growing as a professional.

Empowering employees to question your policies post-training can not only help individual staff members feel closer to the company but helps identify holes in the current process for improvement.

Breaking hierarchy

One of the bigger barriers to cyclical learning are the preconceived ideas of who in a company needs to be learning. But this refers to learning in a practical business sense, not at its most simplistic definition. Training does not need to be groups of people sat in a room, or in more recent times on a Zoom call, nor should it.

Cyclical learning depends on quality feedback. The most basic form being post-training questionnaires to gain an understanding of what did and what didn’t work. From these L&D professionals can then tailor the system for a better fit, creating content that is relevant to the workforce, quickly in any medium that makes sense, all whilst learning first-hand their mistakes.

From here, reports are made to upper management directly offering insights to the workforce and how they react to certain training stimuli. At this point, business leaders are gaining valuable intel on their employees and can relate to them at a deeper professional level while also evolving the company’s training procedures.

The success of this approach does depend on people at all levels of your company jumping on board. A break in the feedback loop can derail the system. Depending on the size of your workforce it may also be that feedback is so eclectic that you are forced to split training into entirely binary routes for different sub-sections of the workforce. A costly, but tangible, outcome of the system.

Barriers and outcomes

Utilising a 360-degree feedback process between employees, L&D professionals and management provides positive and constructive messages to develop an ever-changing programme tailored for the workforce as it stands today.

The idea was a result of contact centre turnover figures, but regardless of the turnover in your industry a more customised training approach which can benefit the entire business from top to bottom will generate a brighter future. Some smaller businesses may already have this culture intrinsically developed; larger businesses will need to work for it.

Today, as you look at the learning and development programmes in action at your organisation take a moment to think about what you, as the trainer, are getting from the process and what those managing your position will be learning as the employees under your tutelage develop their own skills.


About the author

Lee Cottle is European director at Playvox


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