From Onboarding to Continuous Learning: Charting the Journey 

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Chris Hutchinson
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    Gone are the days when onboarding was a one-off induction program. Today, it’s the launch pad for an ongoing odyssey into continuous learning.

    Imagine a workplace where learning is as natural as breathing, where every day brings new knowledge and collaboration.

    This article embarks on a journey to explore this transformation. 

    The New Onboarding Frontier: A Launch Pad for Continuous Learning 

    Redefining Onboarding 

    The first step in our journey is redefining onboarding. It’s no longer about filling out forms and learning the ropes. Modern onboarding is an immersive experience, introducing new hires to the company culture and their role in the processes and projects of the organization. It’s often the first thing any new employee encounters when starting their role and can set the tone for a journey of continuous growth and learning.  

    Beyond Onboarding: Nurturing a Culture of Continuous Learning 

    Structured Learning Pathways 

    After the initial onboarding phase, the journey can evolve into a structured, continuous learning pathway. Including a survey or reflective feedback task to new heirs can be a fantastic way to start gaining information and insight about potential development pathways.

    Asking about current competencies and skills is great for getting started but consider probing deeper – what skills do they aspire to develop? What aspects of the organization or business excite them? Asking about what skills they would like to gain, aspects of the organization or business that interest and excite them and help you profile individuals and develop or direct them to learning experiences that will help them develop along their desired path.

    These pathways can guide employees through their professional development, offering courses and experiences that build upon what they learned in previous experiences dating all the way back to onboarding. It is like charting a course through the stars – each learning experiences a stepping stone to the next, ensuring no one drifts aimlessly in the vastness of space. 

    Creating a Community of Learning 

    Embracing a culture of learning within an organization is about far more than making sure there are resources available to those who wish them, at its heart, a culture of learning is about transforming the workplace into a thriving community of growth, experimentation, and knowledge sharing. It’s about breaking down silos and encouraging cross-departmental collaboration.

    Imagine a workplace where knowledge flow, where employees are not just learners but also teachers, and sources of expertise. This community approach creates a rich tapestry of shared knowledge, fostering innovation and growth. 

    The Journey to a Learning Ecosystem 

    Integrating Learning into Daily Work: The Unseen Powerhouse of Growth 

    In the modern workplace, learning is an omnipresent force, often occurring in the background, unnoticed yet vital. Employees continuously learn – whether they’re solving a complex problem, adapting to new software, or navigating the subtleties of workplace dynamics. This organic, informal learning is the lifeblood of professional growth, but without structure, it’s like energy dissipating into a void. 

    Formalizing existing learning processes by integrating them into daily work can transform this untapped potential into a driving force for innovation and efficiency.

    Here’s why it’s crucial and how it can be achieved: 

    Harnessing Everyday Learning 

    Everyday tasks are abundant with learning opportunities. When an employee troubleshoots a customer issue or collaborates on a project, they’re not just working – they’re learning. Formalizing this learning means recognizing and valuing these moments. It’s about creating systems to capture, manage, and track this learning journey.

    Such systems can provide structure to what is often an invisible process, making learning intentional and measurable and oftentimes, all that’s needed are the right tools and instruction for how anyone can capture, share and collaborate on learning.  

    Benefits of a Structured Learning Approach 

    • Enhanced Skill Development: By formally integrating learning into work, employees can systematically develop skills directly relevant to their roles. 
    • Improved Job Satisfaction: Employees feel more valued and engaged when their learning and growth are recognized as part of their job. 
    • Increased Innovation: A culture that promotes continuous learning fosters innovation, as employees are encouraged to explore, experiment, and share new ideas. 
    • Efficient Knowledge Transfer: When learning is part of the daily workflow, knowledge transfer becomes more seamless, reducing the learning curve for new tasks or roles. 

    Leveraging Hidden Knowledge 

    Every employee is a repository of unique experiences and insights, often referred to as “hidden knowledge.” This knowledge, gained through years of work, is a treasure trove of wisdom that can benefit the entire organization.

    By establishing formal channels for sharing this knowledge, organizations can tap into this resource, transforming individual insights into collective wisdom. 

    • Knowledge Sharing Platforms: Implement platforms where employees can share tips, best practices, and lessons learned. 
    • Mentoring Programs: Pair less experienced employees with veterans to transfer hidden knowledge through personal interaction. 
    • Learning Journals: Encourage employees to keep learning journals, documenting insights and ideas, which can be shared with colleagues. Or alternately try “team journals” these function much like meeting notes but differ in their focus. How they differ from meeting logs is that this separate activity, done on some recurring schedule, summarises what a team has learned, or their learning needs related to specific projects they may be involved with. Making it a “team task” eliminates repetition, helps keep the focus and connection to organizational activities and reduces individual load.   

    Read: The “Teach 1 Thing” Approach to Organizational Learning and Development

    Building a Professional Learning Community 

    Creating a thriving professional learning community involves more than just sharing knowledge. It’s about fostering an environment where learning is celebrated, and every employee feels empowered to contribute. 

    • Incentivize Learning: Recognize and reward learning contributions, whether it’s sharing a valuable resource or mentoring a colleague. 
    • Create Learning Events: Host regular events like ‘lunch and learn’ or ‘knowledge fairs’ where employees can showcase what they’ve learned. 
    • Encourage Cross-Departmental Learning: Facilitate learning sessions where departments can share unique insights, fostering a broader understanding of the organization. 
    • Use an LXP (learning experience platform): almost all organizational process and activities these days use and rely on digital systems for some if not most actions. Learning should be no different and having a dedicated platform and system allowing you to create, share, monitor, and locate learning materials and insights is critical to cultivating a community of knowledge. 

    Integrating learning into the daily workflow is about moving beyond scheduled training sessions, making learning an integral part of the workday.

    This can range from setting aside time for reading industry articles to implementing job rotation programs to broaden skill sets.

    The key is to create an environment where learning and working coexist harmoniously, enhancing rather than interrupting daily tasks. 

    READ: Professional Learning Community: What it’s And How To Identify, Cultivate and Launch It

    Challenges in Training

    Embracing this shift towards a learning-centric culture is not without its hurdles. One of the primary challenges lies in recognising that learning is an integral part of work, not an additional burden.

    Management must not only support but actively participate in this culture, demonstrating that learning is valued. This means allocating time within the workday for learning activities and ensuring employees understand that this is part of their job, not an extra task. 

    Another challenge is training. To effectively contribute to a learning community, employees need the skills to do so. This includes training on how to use the chosen Learning Experience Platform (LXP) and how to create effective learning content like courses or how-to guides.

    Equipping employees with these skills is crucial for the success of a learning ecosystem. 

    Encouraging Peer-to-Peer Learning 

    Peer-to-peer learning is the unsung hero of our journey. It leverages the collective intelligence of the organization, turning every interaction into a learning opportunity.

    Encouraging employees to share knowledge through informal chats, lunch and learns, or internal webinars creates a vibrant learning culture.

    It’s like each employee is both a teacher and a student, contributing to and benefiting from the collective wisdom of the organization. 

    Measuring Success in a Learning Culture 

    No journey is complete without assessing the progress. In our quest to cultivate a learning culture, success is measured not just in completed courses but in the application of learning. It’s about observing changes in employee performance, engagement, and collaboration.

    Regular surveys, performance reviews, and feedback sessions help gauge the effectiveness of learning initiatives, ensuring the journey is on the right course. 

    Conclusion: The Continuous Learning Odyssey 

    As we conclude our journey, we see that the shift from traditional onboarding to a culture of continuous learning is not just a change in process but a transformation in mindset.

    It’s about creating an environment where curiosity is encouraged, knowledge is shared, and learning is as continuous as the journey through the cosmos. 

    What next?

    Now, it’s your turn to chart this course. Reflect on your organization’s learning culture. Are you ready to embark on this transformative journey? Remember, in the universe of continuous learning, every step forward is a leap towards organizational greatness. 

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