Building a learning culture is a critical component of any talent strategy. Organizations who actively pursue it have higher levels of engagement and retention and, therefore, success. One of the keys to creating a learning culture is self-directed learning.
Self-directed learning (SDL) is the process in which individuals take the initiative, with or without the prompting of others, in diagnosing their own learning needs and formulating a strategy to meet them.
SDL is an integral piece of any learning culture, as it allows for employees to choose the learning style that best suits them on an individual level. However, encouraging SDL among employees is not always as easy as handing down a mandate.
Here are a few ways to encourage self-directed learning in your organization:
1. Strive to create a strong learning culture from the top down.
When an organization values learning on a broader scale, individual employees will be motivated to align themselves with this value and take action. When leaders effectively communicate the value of learning in their own careers, it will encourage individuals to take the initiative and seek opportunities to advance their own skills and knowledge as well.
2. Gage their current level of self-direction.
Begin by clarifying where employees currently stand in relation to self-directed learning. Create a self-test they can take which will point to certain areas where they could benefit from learning most. An analysis of strengths and weaknesses will help them decide for themselves where to focus their energy and time.
3. Encourage everyone to always ask why.
Create an environment of inquiry. When organizations are in the habit of asking good questions, they create a natural inclination to learn and grow. Employees who are always asking “why” are the ones who wind up seeking creative solutions and innovating at all levels.
4. Roll out a goal-setting initiative.
Goal setting encourages initiative and accountability, and fosters internal motivation toward self-satisfaction, not to mention the external rewards such as promotions and compensation advances. Use goal-setting as a tool to create an incentive for employees to push themselves, learn and grow on their own.
5. Offer learning resources.
Offering tools and resources is a great way to encourage SDL. It makes learning accessible and convenient for employees. Lay out physical learning materials, offer periodicals, books, access to webinars and e-courses and create an open invitation for employees to use them at their leisure. When they’re seeking answers or if they simply have down time, they’ll be more likely to use the resources if they are readily available and convenient.
When employees feel valued and engaged they perform at a higher level, and as a learning culture fosters those feelings in employees, it’s integral for an organization’s success. Though creating a strong learning culture is not something that happens overnight, taking small steps to encourage self-directed learning among employees is a great first step.