How To Inject Learning Into The DNA of Your Startup

There were an incredible 665,495 startups launched in the UK through 2019/20, with this equating to approximately 1,823 new businesses each day.

Even more impressively, this translates into more than one new business being launched every minute, while organisations of this type comprise 99.2% of the private business population in the UK. While small businesses are clearly key economic drivers in the UK, the sheer number of firms being launched on these shores every year creates huge competition and makes it hard for individual companies to stand out.

One way to set your company apart is by creating a culture of learning into your startup. But what steps can you take to achieve this objective?

#1. Invest in Leadership Development

If you look at the world’s leading Fortune 500 companies, you’ll see that experiential learning is playing an increasingly important role in developing the skills of current and future leaders.

An experiential learning approach is highly effective in the field of leadership development, as this provides access to authentic and simulated business challenges that help students to learn by taking practical and actionable decisions.

This is far more effective than having information imparted passively, particularly in terms of optimising knowledge retention and creating the confidence that leaders need to act decisively and proactively in different situations.

By also recreating actual and often complex business challenges, experiential learning models teach participants how to take management decisions more effectively. It does this by helping people to understand the interconnected nature of most business operations, and formulate growth strategies that are realistic and financially viable. It also enables leaders to practise the soft-skills needed to effectively lead a team in a volatile market environment.

But how can such an approach help you to create a culture of learning in your business? Well, it establishes experiential learning as a vehicle through which employees at all levels can drive their personal development, creating clear paths for career advancement and future ascension into leadership roles.

Remember, studies have also shown that the most effective managers learn by following the renowned 70:20:10 model, through which 70% of learning comes from practical, on-the-job experiences.

So, this type of model creates effective learning that everyone can benefit from, whether you’re new to an organisation or part of an established senior leadership team.

#2. Make Learning a Core Organisational Value

On a similar note, it’s crucial that employees buy into the principle of learning and leadership development if you’re to build a successful and engaging culture.

One of the best ways to achieve this (other than having leaders participate in course) is to ensure that learning is established as a core organisational value, creating a scenario where the senior leadership supports this and sees it as a seminal part of future growth.

Core values are used to shape the course and decision making of organisations, so immediately making learning a founding pillar will leave employees in no doubt that this will play an important role in their development and progression within the organisation.

In addition to making learning a key value, we’d recommend that you make a clear commitment to providing the requisite resources to support employee learning and development. Making learning an organisational value is the first step, but this must be followed up with a clear financial and time investment.

#3. Develop Personalised Learning Plans When Required

While experiential learning can drive higher levels of engagement and knowledge retention, personalised development plans are crucial if you’re to empower individual employees and optimise the value that they offer to your organisation.

This applies to every stage of the learning process too, from the establishment of relevant goals to creating a strategic development plan that makes these actionable and relatively easy to achieve.

By incentivising employers and engaging them through personalised learning, you’re moving the emphasis away from simply creating another course.

Instead, you’re providing them with courses and information that are part of a wider educational program, which has been tailored to suit their needs and the career goals that they want to achieve over time.

#4. Provide the Right Rewards and Incentives

While incentivising employees with an effective and bespoke learning program is highly effective, other rewards can also go a long way to the cultivation of an effective learning culture. The range of rewards that you can use is incredibly broad, enabling you to tailor incentives and solutions that engage workers and encourage them to continue along a long-term development plan.

So, the key is to create a wide range of options that can incentivise as many employees as possible, while ensuring that they’re relevant to the accomplishment (where possible) and tap into the underlying motives why people work for your business.

You may also want to change how incentives are perceived by employees. For example, it’s important to frame professional development as a reward in itself, and one that results in continual career gains and indirect financial rewards over time.

Of course, you’ll need to place emphasis and importance on the importance of learning core skills, while also ensuring that employees are given the time and opportunity to pursue such an education (during working hours as much as possible).

Similarly, you may want to consider investing in the development of relationships between employees and key stakeholders or decision makers throughout the organisation.


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