small business culture

A big topic for learning and development professionals is how to provide the right amount of training for talent. That’s because it is often less expensive and disruptive to cultivate the right talent than to try and hunt for it outside the walls of a company. For small businesses, it’s even more critical to have employees who perform above their pay grade and learning new skills is a key component of this.

To instill a culture of learning at your small business, managers must purposefully hire talent who are intrinsically motivated to learn on their own. Small businesses must encourage this desire but also be prepared to jumpstart the desire for learning in associates. Let’s take a closer look and see how you can develop a learning culture in your business.

Hire Intrinsic Learners

The first step to having a learning culture at your small business is to be dedicated to hiring those who are self-motivated to learn new skills. To do so, use behavior-based questions during the interview process to determine how candidates manage new challenges. An example of this type of question may be, “Tell me about a time you needed to learn a new skill. How did you determine what you needed to learn and how did you do it?”

You want to look for responses that show initiative in learning like the candidate went to YouTube to learn the answer, or asked a co-worker how to perform the task. A red flag is if a candidate says that they waited for their manager to provide the training or path to filling their skill gap.

Encourage Existing Desire

The second step to a culture of learning is to actively encourage associates who do seek out further training. A good way to do this is to understand their career goals, and provide a path towards achieving those goals. This may be formal training, providing special projects, or grant access to online education portals like Udemy or BizLaunch.

A great manager attach strings to these learning opportunities by requiring the associate to teach others what they learned and how it applied to your specific business. Monthly or quarterly lunch-n-learns not only teach your associates presentation skills but also helps further build a culture of learning.

Spark the Learning Flame

The truth is, everyone isn’t always comfortable taking the lead in their own development. But that doesn’t mean you can’t help nudge them. Sometimes, simply asking them what skills they want to learn or trainings they want to attend is enough for associates to take the reins. Other times, you may need to include a learning goal to their annual review. After all, you have to measure the behavior you want to see.

It’s important to provide a way for these introverted or shy associates to teach others what they learn. Whether it’s with one-on-one coaching with others or putting together a PowerPoint deck with a voice recording, it’s important that you push your associates to help you help others.


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