As we continue our series on company culture and what makes a great culture great, I want to focus on the importance of personal and professional growth. Great organizational cultures tend to share something in common when it comes to growth: they not only offer learning and development opportunities to their employees, but they align employee strengths with the needs of the organization. When employee strengths and growth goals are aligned with the needs of the organization, the employee feels appreciated, and can see how their work adds value to the bottom line, which increases job satisfaction, retention, and ultimately helps the company meet its goals.
I recently returned from a wonderful trip to Ireland where learning and experiencing new things was at the forefront of my mind. My trip confirmed that learning is vital to not only a well-rounded person, but to a thriving and healthy workplace culture as well. It ensures there is no stagnation. As human beings, we are biologically wired to seek out safety and security, but at the same time, we also crave variety so we can evolve and grow.
In our professional lives, we are often so busy performing our day-to-day work activities that we forget to make time for learning. It is easier to say we are too busy to try something new, learn a new skill, or take a risk that might impact our short-term performance. This is especially true as the reality of balancing work and family life becomes more and more difficult.
Eduardo Briceno discusses this concept of learning vs. performing zones in his TED talk. His basic premise is that both zones are important in our lives. People need to spend time in the performing zone doing activities where they have developed expertise, but also in the learning zone working on activities or skills that have not yet been mastered. Without a balance of each, stagnation happens.
While the performing zone helps us maximize our immediate work, the learning zone maximizes our capacity for growth and our future performance. Unfortunately, despite our hard work, existing in the performing zone long-term ultimately inhibits our performance. Briceno goes on to say that we need to be clear about when we want to be in each of these zones and what our goals are in each.
Here are a few things to consider when trying to develop a learning mindset and culture of growth and development:
- Encourage individuals to identify specific goals for improvement, either personal or professional.
- Foster an environment where employees can intentionally carve out time for learning on a regular basis. Research shows that organizations that build in time to learn are seeing tremendous results. While this should happen at an organizational level, individuals should do this as well. Carve out learning time, even if it is for five minutes a day reading an article, listening to a podcast on your commute, or reflecting on what went well/poorly on a project.
- Encourage a culture where people share mistakes and lessons learned. Organic learning opportunities surround us every day – take advantage!
- Develop quantitative systems that measure, encourage, and incentivize growth and learning. Instead of focusing solely on performance metrics, ask employees to articulate how a new skill they acquired impacted the business or share a recent example of a lesson learned.
More Articles in our Culture Series:
What Makes a Great Culture Great?
Building Culture Through Knowing, Growing, and Thanking Your People
What is the ROI on Caring?
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Content authored by former employee Tonya Dittman.