“The millennial generation requires belonging to an organization where a strong learning culture is present.”
It’s common knowledge employees increasingly value a workplace that nurtures learning. Employees want to work in an organization where there is time for self-discovery, time for reflection, debate and thought. They want their potential nurtured, and efforts recognized. On all of this we can agree. What I can’t agree with, is that having a culture of learning within an organization is because of a “new generational requirement.”
Question – Did we all go to sleep in 1990 and wake up in 2014 thinking only millennials require a learning culture? And herein lies the myth – that organizational culture, learning or otherwise is a requirement only of certain generations. I’m here to tell you that if you are basing your learning strategy on what millennials want – you will fail. There are a lot of people out there making A LOT of money informing organizations that unless they address the “Millennial” population they will soon be at a tipping point of talent drain. I don’t begrudge people who sincerely believe that addressing a subset of the working population will lead to organizational success, I’m sure they mean well. However, let’s deal with reality.
The reality is, everyone – EVERYONE, wants to be part of a business which values knowledge and learning.
Those organizations who don’t value knowledge share have deeper issues, trust me. This not about a millennial base, this is about people and once you start building your learning strategy in the silo of generations, you are on the path to failure. To this point, I take issue with the term of “building” a learning culture. In my opinion, it’s not about building it’s about nurturing. Let’s review the definition of culture: In short, culture is about everyday actions. Actions you don’t think about, behaviors which are ingrained in the environment, hard-wired into our heads – it’s the way we naturally do things. Having a learning culture means people are naturally, as part of their everyday work life, seeking out information; naturally looking to self-discovery, investigating mistakes and failures and learning from them. That, my friends, is a learning culture, and it has absolutely nothing to do with the year in which you were born. If you can tell me there is a process for developing a learning culture just targeted for millennials as opposed to Baby Boomers and the like, I’m listening. Seriously.
Here are Learning Rebel benchmarks for supporting a culture of learning within any workforce:
- Make learning part of the organization’s strategic success, learning as a strategic thrust platform.
- Encourage a “Show Your Work” environment making work educational. Knowledge sharing should be a daily organizational habit.
- An organization which allows for mistakes, and at times celebrates them is one with a healthy learning culture. Mistakes are valuable sources of learning, and leaders should intentionally allow mistakes in select situations to challenge deeply held assumptions.
- Make nurturing learning part and parcel of leadership. Leadership should be willing to take ownership of the overall learning culture and is not assigned to just HR or L&D.
- Organizations can use onboarding programs to encourage employees to take personal responsibility for learning and also to demonstrate their commitment to development.
- Empower employees to listen, speak the truth, make decisions, and control their environment, without which organizations fail to learn.
Now take these same benchmarks and insert the word millennial. Example: “For millennials, make learning part of the organization’s strategic success, learning as a strategic thrust platform.” Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? Are we so arrogant to assume that Boomers, Gen X’ers, Gen Y’s, and other generations, do not have a need for improvement or somehow they are lacking the inquiring minds millennials have? Isn’t it time we take generations and supposed generational needs out of HR and L&D conversations? Aren’t you tired of being put in a generational box? I am.
Key is understanding not what generations require out of a learning organization, but what PEOPLE require out of organizations, period.
As I said at the beginning of this post, if as a business, you are searching for a way to “build” a learning culture you have deeper issues. There is no “building” without nurturing and this requires transparency, trust, commitment, accountability, and the ability to question and debate. If your workplace is not set up to support these core values then perhaps that’s where you first need to start. If those values are not addressed, count on losing talent and know it will have nothing to do with generations, or whether or not your organization has a culture of learning. It will have everything to do with the strong possibility of your organization being dysfunctional. Forget nurturing, it’s time to pull some weeds!
Let’s stop worrying about past and future generations in the workplace. Let’s start worrying about the fact that learning still operates in silo’s (that we create); that we say we want transparency (but we really don’t); that we are still counting butts in seats as a measurement of learning (even though we say we aren’t); and that for the sake of time we still take out learning exercises rather than delete or shorten lectures (Because we still value words over actions).
Let’s focus on creating collaboration areas for people to share experiences. Let’s focus on acknowledging what didn’t work in the past and move forward without looking in the rear-view mirror. Let’s focus on the need to change and on the need to adapt. Let’s focus on nurture and learning support.
Focus on the people, not the year they were born.