How to create a workplace where employees yearn to learn

by John Hilton25 Jan 2016
A workplace which offers rich learning outcomes has a number of characteristics, according Stephen Billett, Professor of Adult and Vocational Education in the School of Education and Professional Studies at Griffith University.

Firstly, the company would offer opportunities for people to engage in a range of activities and do new things to extend their knowledge.

Secondly, it would have opportunities to practice and rehearse to become very good at what they do, Billett added.

The other significant factor is that the company must have individuals who have a thirst for knowledge, he said.

Companies can nurture this trait in their workforce by putting incentives in place which engage employees to learn.

Therefore, employees have a motivation to learn and develop so they are not just good at their jobs, but also have the opportunity for a higher salary or enjoy better conditions.

“The point is that you can have a workplace which is a poor learning environment, and still have individuals who, if they really work hard, can overcome that poor environment,” said Billett.  

“On the other hand, you can have a workplace which is offering lots of opportunities but unless people are interested enough and willing enough to engage in it, you are not going to get a particularly rich set of learning outcomes.”

Billett added that one of the concerns here is that when workplaces think about opportunities to develop workers skills they tend to consider training programs.

“This involves getting people in a room and telling them what they need to know. And that can be useful, but unless people really want to engage with it and make sense of it, it’s going to be insufficient on its own,” he said.

He added that often training programs are put in place because of workplace needs rather than the needs of workers.

“I guess it’s a bit like when we fly in an aeroplane and they have to read the safety instructions to us,” said Billett.  

“It’s similar to people who are sent along to training programs which they are not very interested in and you don’t see a benefit.”

Billett also said there has to be a greater effort by companies to try and understand what individuals want to learn and how they can be engaged and interested.

This involves finding out what people want to learn and then working out the best way of enabling them to learn it, he added.