This week’s Secret L&D manager is Hungarian and is a Learning & Development Specialist for a global chemical company . In this post, he talks about the journey and the challenges of building a learning culture in a large organization.
When you joined the company, what kind of learning culture did you find?
I think it’s really easy to answer this question, because when I joined my company, I can say that there was no learning culture. If I can take a step back, people have different understandings and definitions of the term “learning culture” . For me “learning culture” means there are people who like learning, there are learning resources and opportunities that people are encouraged to access whenever they need something or expect to need something going forward, and managers enable and encourage learning . Here, in all cases, there was nothing, so people were not, really empowered to learn. The second thing is that there were not a lot of resources available for learning. One of my priorities, and it’s also one of the reasons I was hired, is to create this kind of learning environment and then along with this also create a learning culture.
How were managers and the leaders in your organization seeing learning before you arrived?
I think, and this is only my perspective, that the management was saying, “Learning is very much needed” but when it came to the point where they had to invest they said, “We don’t have the budget for that”. On the one hand they definitely like the idea of learning. They talk a lot about learning and do want to enhance, improve and develop their employees. But actually, when an employee comes to them and says “OK we agreed that I need negotiations training” and they say, “OK go, have fun”, the employee has to find the seminar or resources. Employees would just Google something and then went come back with a course they had found that cost €20,000. For me this was the first problem because nobody knew if it was a good course quality-wise, who the provider was and if they were a fit, whether the investment was reasonable or if the training was needed. And then usually 99% of the managers said “sorry but we don’t have the budget for that”.
So how have you gone about building a learning culture?
What I did first was convincing management that learning and development really matters to our success as an organization. I used storytelling approaches to help them see why it is good to invest in learning, and how a company actually benefits from having a learning culture. Then I showed them that, even if they don’t want to spend a lot of money, using informal or on-the-job learning is still going to create a lot of benefits for the company. For example, using job rotation or on-the-job development does work and can make a tangible difference. Approaches like mentoring and internal coaching can and should be done. The managers in my company really bought into this idea. The first 2 or 3 things that I managed to do were ideas which didn’t cost a lot of money but were still very beneficial.
Another example where I actually created value and showed the management why learning helps an organization is when we set up the first e-learnings. We built these internally using a tool called EdApp https://www.edapp.com/. It’s a very good and intuitive tool and easy to use. There were a lot of templates that we could instantly just choose and work with. I worked with our technical experts and together we created e-learning activities on areas such as regulation, process management and . tendering, and product management. We then rolled the e-learnings out to 200 people and the feedback from the participants has been really great. Because of this tool we’ve been able to gamify the learning too.
What else have you done to continue building a culture since?
Communication is key. Whenever we have a new product or new system (e.g recruiting, performance management) we connect it to the learning. For example, in our performance management you have an annual meeting about your performance with your manager, and you have to talk about your development. Of course most people consider meeting a mandatory step and find it boring. I have worked with the managers to help them individually use this moment to create a better dialog with their employees, be more confident when giving feedback, setting goals etc etc. This combination of building a catalogue of recommended training providers and training courses, building e-learning, leveraging managers and looking for single moments where we can connect learning to the business process shows why learning is important in a company and is the first steps of building a learning culture.
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Who is the secret L&D manager?
The “secret L&D manager” is actually a group of L&D managers. They are real people who would prefer not to mention their name or company – but do want to write anonymously so they can openly and directly share their ideas and experience with their peers.